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James Lileks

Columnist | Variety
phone: 612-673-7858
James Lileks writes a Variety column. He also blogs under The Blog O'Things.
Recent content from James Lileks
From Bagpipe Blvd. to Computer Av., suburbs post colorful street names

From Bagpipe Blvd. to Computer Av., suburbs post colorful street names

Have you ever investigated the origin of your street's name? No, you say; pretty sure there's no great story behind 17th Street. Granted. But some have history embedded in their syllables.

James Lileks: Do Mole People run the Internet?

We could look up the answer on the Web — if we were sure we could trust it.

Lileks: Gender roles and shopping don't mix

We're looking for a new TV set on a Sunday afternoon. The old one just didn't have HDMI ports. No one needed them 10 years…
Three major Minneapolis intersections help tell the story of how the city evolved

Three major Minneapolis intersections help tell the story of how the city evolved

The intersections of Hennepin and Nicollet, Hennepin and Lyndale and Seven Corners have their own stories to tell.

James Lileks: There's junk mail, and then there's mail that's just junk

There's no such thing as an offer you can't refuse if you never open the envelope.

James Lileks: The new, improved column

Every trip to the grocery store is a lesson, a new discovery. At Target, for example, the Market Pantry graphics are being upgraded across the…

A Prince parable: the rock star and waiter

A late-night encounter with Prince turned into a classic Minnesota moment.
Fit fad: What on Earth was a 'Space Age Slenderizer'?

Fit fad: What on Earth was a 'Space Age Slenderizer'?

What it was: Trim-Jeans, a device that combined sweaty plastic and delusional faith in science into one ingenious package. Also known as sauna pants, they…

James Lileks: Griping brings validation (or a code, anyway)

For some Minnesotans, there's nothing worse than realizing that you should complain about something. We don't like to complain in person; it's so … intimate.…

James Lileks: Getting more boom for our fireworks buck

Sure, we might blow ourselves up, but it'll be a spectacular explosion.
Panicking about the downsides of reusable bags

Panicking about the downsides of reusable bags

Minneapolis' plastic bag ban has us looking more closely at the alternatives.

James Lileks: I-35W construction project could be a real pain

Threats of an interminable I-35W commute have drivers begging for mercy.

Lileks: Singing the praises of old vinyl classics

Spotify, the music streaming service that plays any song you want for free, just raised another billion dollars from investors, perhaps by promising to set…

Lileks: Doing the walking, texting two-step

But do we need a law to stop this modern safety hazard?

Lileks: Batman v. Superman v. your sense of hearing

No, I will not see "Batman v Superman." The title is two words too long, for one thing.

Lileks: The annual joy of paying your wheelage tax

With fees and surcharges, process is a license to irritate.
When it comes to Twin Cities parking garages, why can't we ramp it up?

When it comes to Twin Cities parking garages, why can't we ramp it up?

Too often, parking garages are bland, boring or downright ugly. Here's a look at the best and worst in the Twin Cities.
What's the next hip sauce, now that everyone's ruined Sriracha by liking it?

What's the next hip sauce, now that everyone's ruined Sriracha by liking it?

With all the big brands scrambling to get on board the sriracha train, its coolness may be on the outs. Lileks looks at some of the up-and-comers.

Why is every parking space at the Mall of America always full?

Frustration turns to despair at the Mall of America's perpetually full East Ramp.
After 43 years on air, Twin Cities DJ John Hines hasn't run out of things to say

After 43 years on air, Twin Cities DJ John Hines hasn't run out of things to say

In an industry that's in perpetual flux, WCCO radio mainstay John Hines has become a constant presence.
Siri, am I drunk? If you have to ask, you are

Siri, am I drunk? If you have to ask, you are

If you're naive enough to think a smartphone can measure blood alcohol levels, please don't drive.
Just how long are airport lines? A fanciful account of one traveler

Just how long are airport lines? A fanciful account of one traveler

DIARY OF A MAN TRYING TO MAKE HIS WAY THROUGH SECURITY AT THE AIRPORT 6:30 a.m. I think I’ll make it. I hope I’ll make…
Goodbye to the pleasures of bulk dining – but it'll be back

Goodbye to the pleasures of bulk dining – but it'll be back

One chain goes, another rises. It's the cycle of life.
Fitness fads: Looking back (and left, and right) at the vibrating exercise belt

Fitness fads: Looking back (and left, and right) at the vibrating exercise belt

What it was: The vibrating exercise belt. If there’s anything that sums up our condescension for fitness fads of the past, it’s these contraptions. Go…
Let's all freak out about Starbuck's reward program changes, OK? BIG. TIME.

Let's all freak out about Starbuck's reward program changes, OK? BIG. TIME.

Let's get one thing out of the way, shall we? The subject involves fancy, pricey coffee joints, so let's allll think of a long, ornate…
Minneapolis takes mix-and-match approach to streetlights — but why?

Minneapolis takes mix-and-match approach to streetlights — but why?

When you start to look around Minneapolis with streetlights in mind, you realize how many shapes and styles we have — and how we could probably do with fewer.

Lileks: Is a caucus inherently anti-Minnesotan because it involves talking about feelings?

Caucus provides a loophole in Minnesotans' rule against sharing our feelings.

Lileks: You get a facility! Everyone gets a facility!

The new St. Paul soccer stadium proposal is beautiful. It’s as if someone said, “I wonder what a $150 million soap bubble would look like.”…
Should you nitpick a hotel at travel review sites?

Should you nitpick a hotel at travel review sites?

In a world of social media, you can easily nitpick a hotel at travel review sites. But should you?

Are you tired of non-Internet-related toothbrushes? Of course you are. Meet the Quip.

My dentist asked me to work the word "teeming" into a column, and while I usually don't take requests, you want to humor the guy…

Lileks: Half a million gobs of gum? Half a MILLION?

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Minneapolis DID, and asked DID what? Are they doing it still, or is it done for good? It’s the Downtown…

James Lileks: Just when you think you've beaten winter ...

I think we're close. I think it could happen at any moment. It won't be pretty. Do you sense it? Can you feel it in…

Lileks: I say, old chap, be jolly good and hand over the lolly!

Bank robbery isn’t an unusual story, but last week’s heist of an Uptown TCF had some unusual details. The thief spoke in an “English” accent.…

James Lileks: A missing part sheds light on mysteries of Internet shopping

This is a cautionary tale about buying big things on the Internet. To paraphrase the "Beverly Hillbillies" theme song: "Come and listen to a story…

Lileks: Sure, we talk fast. Even better, we say less

If you’ve wondered what they did with the phone calls recorded for Quality Control, here’s one answer: Marchex, a “mobile analytics firm,” which I gather…
Historic St. Paul steeples still rise above modern towers

Historic St. Paul steeples still rise above modern towers

You don't have to be religiously inclined to appreciate the historic churches of downtown St. Paul and their many differences.

James Lileks: Typically, 'tech support' offers little of either

Sometimes you go through these phases. A dark patch. It's nothing serious, but it drapes your day in shadows and makes the night seem abundant…

Lileks: You're going to make your MSP plane after all

They're speeding up the security lines at MSP. How, you ask? Cattle prods? No: there's a new gate with 10 lanes. Hoorah! No more nerve-racking…
Tangled up in the decision over landline phones

Tangled up in the decision over landline phones

To cut or not to cut? That's the question facing folks who are still connected to telephone lines – physically and emotionally.

James Lileks: Do we need a shopping app added to our grocery lists?

Because the Internet has reduced my brain to a 10-watt bulb that needs stimulation every four seconds, I clicked on a link that promised to…

Lileks: If we all pitch in a dollar, we can name it Hoi Polloi Park

The park outside the Vikings Stadium — aka the US Bank Stadium by the Buildings that Say Wells Fargo — doesn’t have enough money for…

James Lileks: Hey, Wisconsin fans — here's a way you still can boo

By now we’ve all talked to death the Wisconsin Busybody Association’s rules on Acceptable Chants for athletic events. You may have tried to imagine someone…
James Lileks: Lottery losers might be the real winners

James Lileks: Lottery losers might be the real winners

Hello, fellow Powerball losers. Unless you’re one of the local winners who got the pity-pittance prize of $50K. Eh. Who needs the bother? Your friends…
Lobbies are real heroes of downtown Minneapolis buildings

Lobbies are real heroes of downtown Minneapolis buildings

While most of us get our first impressions at skyway level, architects still treat first-floor entries as focal points.

James Lileks: Finding a new coffeemaker can be a real grind

Gasoline is cheaper than coffee. An ounce of espresso goes for a couple of bucks, right? That's $256 a gallon. It would cost over $3,000…

Lileks: Let's just set stuff on fire and feel better about things

Before I make a cautioned defense of vandalism AND arson, a note about today’s Big Game. This is the way football is meant to be…
Lileks: Why, oh why must the year start in January?

Lileks: Why, oh why must the year start in January?

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year is followed by the worst. Cold and dark and long and bleak — and it’s inaugurated with strange…

Lileks: Vikings stadium to Wells Fargo: Leggo that logo!

The Vikings have accused Wells Fargo of “photo bombing” the new U.S. Bank Stadium with big glowing signs. Apparently the fact that Wells Fargo built…
A new year's wish list for downtown Minneapolis' skyline

A new year's wish list for downtown Minneapolis' skyline

It was a good year for architecture. If the year had a theme, it was the Hippocratic oath: First, do no harm. But here are some wishes for Minneapolis for 2016.

Here's every Christmas letter that made you grind your teeth

At some point this month you got a Christmas letter, tucked in a card. The front had the ideal family all beaming their SAY BRIE!…

How to make people roll their eyes while you roll your wheels

There are times you realize you're living in the 21st century, and this was one: The Uber driver I had summoned from my pocket global…
Revisit the pixilated past of a 'dark' Star Wars video game

Revisit the pixilated past of a 'dark' Star Wars video game

In 1995, LucasArts released "Dark Forces," a "Doom"-style first-person shooter set in the "Star Wars" universe.
Lileks: Luke, I am your – oh, sorry, hold on, SPOILERS

Lileks: Luke, I am your – oh, sorry, hold on, SPOILERS

This is a Major Cultural Event that spans the generations. Even if Episode 7 consists of George Lucas performing the entire story with hand puppets, the movie will do eleventy billion dollars on the first weekend.

Lileks: Bright side of inconveniences? You have to look hard

Life abounds with small inconveniences, but there’s usually a bright side. Last Sunday I was on a plane waiting to leap into the sky, and…
No tears for teardown of forgettable TCF Bank building

No tears for teardown of forgettable TCF Bank building

It seems like every other month we lament the loss of smaller, older buildings in downtown Minneapolis and wonder if we're losing our heritage to big new developments. This is not one of those times.
Disappearing 'ghost ads' on old Mpls. buildings are a sign of the times

Disappearing 'ghost ads' on old Mpls. buildings are a sign of the times

Ghost ads — the ancient signs for bygone products, painted in the early half of the 20th century — linger until the wrecking ball knocks down their brick canvases or a new building covers them up. Three old downtown Minneapolis signs are in peril.
Lileks: Was 'Star Wars' Episode 2 better than the haters believe?

Lileks: Was 'Star Wars' Episode 2 better than the haters believe?

"Attack of the Clones" is better than the last movie in the original trilogy, "Return of the Jedi." Heresy! Perhaps. But search your feelings. You know it to be true.

The modern annoyance of loyalty programs

I was recently informed by a major drugstore chain — let's call it Floorbrown's — that some of my points were expiring. These points were…

Lileks: My usual suggestion for a 900-foot tall statue of the Pillsbury Doughboy is not included

We have a big budget surplus again, which brings out all the people with ideas on how to spend it. It’s $1.9 billion, and let’s…
Top 10 weirdest holiday TV specials of all time

Top 10 weirdest holiday TV specials of all time

The weirdest thing about "A Very Murray Christmas" is that it really isn't all that weird. For genuine mischief, put these nontraditional holiday specials on your wish list.
'The Bathrooms Are Coming!' and other corporate film oddities hit the Heights

'The Bathrooms Are Coming!' and other corporate film oddities hit the Heights

In a bygone era, elaborate musicals were created for company pep rallies.

Lileks: Resist giving in to the dark side of holiday lights

It's time to drape strings of electrified illumination around your house to increase the urban festivity quotient. In the old days, men got up on…

Lilkes: Oh, no: I forgot the password for my windshield scraper

There were some flakes on the ground last week, but they looked like troops that had parachuted into town before an invasion that never happened.…

StoryCorps helps nail down Grandpa's recollections for posterity

After Thanksgiving dinner, you have some options: Lose consciousness while watching football as your body struggles to metabolize a pound of poultry. Go to the…

Lileks: Stinky ink might thwart those package snatchers

Billboards around town are heralding a new Amazon service: They will deliver things to your house in an hour. Makes you want to order a…

Word on the street: comedize

Definition: To perform or write (a play, scene, etc.) in a comic style or manner; to treat or dramatize in comic form.

Lileks: Cataloging the holiday come-ons

Editor's note: Welcome to James Lileks, whose column is moving from the Friday Metro section to Variety on Mondays.Amazon has a new service that…

Lileks: How would we ever survive winter without these helpful tips?

Winter Hazard Awareness Week concluded Friday, and in case you missed the helpful tips provided by local government websites, I can recap for you: Winter…

Lileks: Trying out the new parkmobile app for parking your NO SIGNAL

Huzzah, etc.: All the parking meters in downtown Minneapolis are hooked up to Parkmobile, so you can pay for them with your phone. This is…

Lileks: Since Minneapolis is clearly No. 1, can we lose all these lists?

Enough. Stop. Please. I implore the City Council to pass a resolution withdrawing Minneapolis from consideration in any more lists. We hit the top this…

Lileks: Keep your hands off my DST

Over 63,000 people have lent their name to an online petition demanding the abolition of daylight saving time. Of course, you can probably find an…
Once-remote Minneapolis cemeteries now have us living with the dead

Once-remote Minneapolis cemeteries now have us living with the dead

Minneapolis cemeteries were planned long ago to stand at a distance from the communities they served, but now they find themselves surrounded by urban hubbub.

Lileks: Are Halloween decorations and costumes crossing the line? Eh, who cares

Time for the usual argument over whether some Halloween decorations are too gruesome? Eh. It’s not that I have a big problem with rotting corpses…

Lileks: How do you do? Charmin, I'm sure

The card table outside the grocery store was heaped with toilet paper. New form of bake sale? You can’t resist cute kids selling things for…
These unbuilt towers would have transformed Minneapolis skyline

These unbuilt towers would have transformed Minneapolis skyline

These never-built towers would have made Minneapolis' skyline look quite different — and in almost every case, we should consider ourselves lucky.
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