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James Lileks

Columnist | Metro
phone: 612-673-7858
James Lileks writes a metro column and is an anchor/producer for NewsBreak, the webcast on startribune.com. He also blogs under The Blog O'Things.
Recent content from James Lileks

Lileks: We need people reading soda labels out loud with a megaphone

The city of Minneapolis has a new initiative: Rethink Your Drink! It’s an attempt to get people to realize that sweet beverages often contain lots…
In our statues, Twin Cities prefer modest over monumental

In our statues, Twin Cities prefer modest over monumental

Here's why the Twin Cities have so few of the big, heroic statues that tower over many other cities.

Lileks: Why don't we like fireworks anymore?

And now it’s time for another episode of “Broad Conclusions Drawn from Observing my Narrow Socioeconomic Group.” What trite generalization can we overinflate today? Let’s…
Lileks: New fair foods? You will enjoy our spit-basted Llama Kebabs

Lileks: New fair foods? You will enjoy our spit-basted Llama Kebabs

One sure sign of summer’s fleet speed: the revelation of State Fair Foods. Some of them always sound like gimmicks: arugula milkshakes, on a stick!…

Lileks: Time to meet a new Lake Calhoun namesake

It comes as a surprise to some that one of our beloved lakes is named after someone whose reputation gives off a dead-fish stink. But…

Lileks: No, the IRS is not using local cops to make you pay

Now and then the caller ID says “FLORIDA.” Don’t know anyone named Florence Rida. Don’t think the entire state is gathered around a speakerphone. Most…

Lileks: Sorry your house burned down; the e-mail went to junk

The Nextdoor website is a nice way to keep up with people in your vicinity, and they’re always posting useful things: • 37 pounds of…

How to deal with people who steal boxes from your porch? Package of hornets

News from the neighborhood website: a rash of stolen packages left on the stoop. Thieves are trailing the UPS and FedEx trucks like sharks following…

Lileks: Putting stinky socks on goats a small price to keep the bugs off

When the June bugs showed up in May I felt like a hotel desk clerk looking at someone trying to check in a week early.…

Lileks: Turning I-35 into the milkweed way

No one would like butterflies if they had a 9-foot wingspan, made high-pitched shrieks between 3 and 4 a.m., rutted on the front lawn with…

Lileks: A guide to summer Activities for kids!

Forty-eight rabid zebras were the last thing we expected to see on the front lawn this morning. Here’s some advice for parents to deal with…

Lileks: Here's why they whacked six days off the Aquatennial

The Aquatennial, previously known as the Ten Best Days of Summer, will shed six days. “This decision will allow us to refresh the Aquatennial experience,”…

Lileks: Of course we should combine pedal pubs with light rail

Why do people hate the pedal pubs? Scorchy, buzzy issue about which you couldn’t care less, but it’s trending on local social media, so let’s…

Lileks: Cemeteries open as well, if that needs saying

Memorial Day is the start of summer, right? Not this year. You cannot have summer in June. You can get a steak out of a…

Lileks: Vikings want your bricks, just not your brickbats

Are you thinking about the area surrounding the new stadium, and wondering if you could help defray the paving costs? Good news: You can buy…

You don't own it and you can't cut it, but other than that it's yours

The city planted two trees on the boulevard last year. One of them didn’t make it. This is Nature’s way: Only the strong survive! Didn’t…
Streetscapes: Ghost signs reveal past almost imperceptibly

Streetscapes: Ghost signs reveal past almost imperceptibly

Barely legible, ghost signs cling to old brick and plaster, inviting us to recall their long-ago creation. A century of wind and rain hasn’t erased them. A hundred years of sunshine couldn’t fade them completely.

Defending plastic bags (which are indefensible)

Monday I was in a Washington, D.C., drugstore, buying a soda because it was 147 degrees out and I felt like kiln-dried jerky. As part…

If you don't fish, this is the fishing opener story for you.

For many Minnesotans, the “Fishing Opener” is that serrated strip on the box you rip to get at the breaded cod. We may not fish,…

Lileks: Lurk if you must, but please curb the spitting

Walking downtown on a bright spring day, watching people queue for the lunch trucks. Wondering why we can’t have them year ’round. Even in winter.…

Lileks: You have to get annual license tabs because … why, exactly?

Off to the DMV to get the tabs for my license plate, because we all know we have to get the magic colored square to…

Lileks: Lunds and Byerly's new name misses a great opportunity

The news is sweeping the town like a brush fire in an oil patch: Lunds and Byerly’s are — is? — changing their name. Lunderlys?…

Lileks: Sometimes a city gets a store that's actually … useful

There’s an old religious saying that brings comfort to many: Every time God closes a Walgreens, He opens a CVS. Wait — no. That’s not…
Show goes on for 200 Minnesota theaters designed by dynamic duo

Show goes on for 200 Minnesota theaters designed by dynamic duo

Architects Jack Liebenberg and Seeman Kaplan designed so many Minnesota buildings that their contribution to our cities is almost unmeasurable. But it's the roughly 200 unique movie theaters they created that have left an extraordinary collection scattered on main streets across the state.

Lileks: How to build the ultimate time capsule

It’s risky, writing in advance about something that’s supposed to happen Friday morning. It could go horribly wrong. It’s a time capsule event. We’re handling…

Lileks: Composting in Minneapolis apparently means bins every 10 feet

Lucky us: our house has been approved for Phase 2 of the organics recycling program. If I sign up now I’ll get a green bin…

Lileks: Repeal the 10 mph bike speed limit!

Discussions about bikes vs. cars eventually devolve into bitter shouting matches, so let’s just skip the preliminaries and get right to the clichéd accusations, OK?…

Lileks: Sorry, your walleye can't be found. Refresh / Cancel

The DNR has asked people to keep their drones at least 5 miles away from fires. I’m sorry, what? One day drones are something you…
Old gas stations live on in new guises

Old gas stations live on in new guises

Old gas stations frequently find new uses, but you can always tell what they once were. Gas stations look like nothing else, and no matter what you do to them, they look like gas stations.

City's Evil Dog Map might be fixed with few new tricks

In the interests of public safety, Minneapolis has published online an astonishing database of criminals, complete with offenses and addresses. You can look at the…

Lileks: Some suggested improvements for the Evil Dog Map

In the interests of public safety, Minneapolis has published online an astonishing database of criminals, complete with offenses and addresses. You can look at the…
Streetscapes: Appraising tall buildings proposed for Nicollet Hotel site

Streetscapes: Appraising tall buildings proposed for Nicollet Hotel site

Of four proposals for a key downtown site, the tallest, most impractical one may also be the best.
Streetscapes: Moderne towers once dominated the St. Paul skyline

Streetscapes: Moderne towers once dominated the St. Paul skyline

The Depression, when a handful of forward-looking Moderne towers were built, was a boom time for St. Paul's skyline.
Streetscapes: Fast-food outlets are unloved, omnipresent

Streetscapes: Fast-food outlets are unloved, omnipresent

Do we expect good architecture from fast-food joints? Not any more. These ordinary buildings are the least-loved citizens of the streets — and for decades, they defined the look of our suburban drags.
Urban giants are pyramids of the prairie

Urban giants are pyramids of the prairie

Once abandoned, the utilitarian grain elevators dotting the Twin Cities landscape are difficult to retrofit. But tearing them all down seems wrong.

Lileks: Will we see municipal pot stores?

Richfield has decided to ban recreational marijuana shops. You may ask if they’ve also prohibited unicorn grooming and brothels with on-site blackjack, to name two…

Lileks: Our traffic is the worst (except that it's not)

Finally, some bad press for this glittering city. Finally, a story about Minneapolis that doesn’t declare it the Top City in America to Start a…

Lileks: What to do with all that wonderful surplus money

Another budget surplus, another argument about what to do with the lucre. First of all, just peel off a wad for the soccer stadium, because…

Lileks: Will a new parking app take the romance out of feeding the meter?

Minneapolis will be upgrading its parking meters, also known as “anxiety poles,” and we’ll be better off for it. You will be able to use…

Lileks: New Monopoly ranks Minneapolis below a South Dakota town. What?

Now and then the Monopoly game makes the news because they’ve changed something. They’ll got rid of the piece shaped like an iron or a…
Star Tribune is last of downtown Minneapolis newspaper buildings

Star Tribune is last of downtown Minneapolis newspaper buildings

Demolition of the Star Tribune headquarters on Portland Avenue means the end of a newspapering era in downtown.

Lileks: Public money for another stadium? Sure!

A new Major League Soccer team in the Twin Cities? Why not. I have no interest in the sport myself, alas; if you ever see…

Lileks: Remembering the guy who made your floor mop

Michael Graves designed a darn fine pasta ladle. You imagined him up all night, pacing the floor, discarding one design after the other, crumpling up…

Spring means flowers, sun – and watching where you step

Every dog owner has had the same thought in the pet food aisle. You’re considering the 25-pound bag of Healthy Vita-Premium Radiance Meal, which has…

Lileks: Here's something you're not going to get. Yet again.

A recent proposed change to the Minnesota Hooch Code might make you imagine the following conversation. Legislature: Good news! Someday soon you might be able…

Lileks: One more test for high school? Yes, please!

Is our children learn good? It’s a question many parents have, especially since the Common Core lesson plan replaced the equally unpopular Rare Periphery curriculum.…

Lileks: Is the Commons our park, or the Vikings?

Here’s the thing about Our New Park that always snags your sleeve: The Vikes have the right to the park 100 days a year.

Lileks: Safety at MOA, where the threat level is 'Be kinda aware'

As you’ve no doubt heard, some fellow keen on moving up to the top spot on the president’s drone-strike authorization checklist advised the noble warriors…

Lileks: Watch as our tolerance level drops to below zero

Go ahead, tell me this hasn’t happened to you: You had to run a late-night errand because you were perilously close to running out of…

Lileks: Logo change can sure take the wind out of your sails

The City of Minneapolis has announced its new logo. Instead of two stylized sailboats, there will be just one. Some people are complaining about the…

James Lileks: The Mango mover was also THAT GUY

I have a horror of being That Guy Who Holds Up The Line. You know the type: the person in front of you at the…

Lileks: Dear fellow Powerball losers, count yourselves lucky

I walked up to a total stranger on Monday and said, “I have a poor grasp of probability, and believe that magical intervention will settle…

Lileks: Why do some people still have Christmas lights up?

Some Christmas lights in the neighborhood are still up. Let’s phone a neighbor and ask why.“What? The lights?” (Sigh.) “I see those bulbs as something…

Lileks: Tear down that stadium before it's too late

Gov. Dayton — or Gov. Macy’s if you’re not living in the past — went after Wisconsin’s new tourism ad the other day. “One of…

Lileks: Kids will be kids, but bomb threats are inexcusable

It’s a strange thing to send your kid to school saying “You won’t get blown up.” If you’re wrong, they’ll really hold that against you.…

Lileks: Defending the skyway from lovers of bone-cold vibrancy

Judging from recent articles and blogs, the issue isn’t whether we should build more skyways, but tear down the ones we have. The argument says…

Lileks: The news from the future seems familiar

>> AM news transmission for January 25 2314 COMMENCE DOWNLOAD BY BLINKING THREE TIMES >> INPUT ACCEPTED / RETINAL DISPLAYS ENABLED Thank you for subscribing…

Lileks: Minneapolis City Hall clock is the world's biggest! (Some say)

If you were downtown this week, you may have noticed that City Hall’s great clock had stopped. Possible reasons: • Probably replacing it with a smartphone…

Lileks: Why Target failed in Canada

The withdrawal of Target from Canada after a punishing retail failure will no doubt affect local staffing, and the company’s HQ on Nicollet will have…

James Lileks: Never lose track of the almighty car title

I’ve had several run-ins with government lately, and am pleased to note that I’m getting my money’s worth. No, that doesn’t mean bribes. Got a…

Lileks: You think year-round school is good? You were never a kid

When sworn in last week, Gov. Mark Dayton said he’d focus on education, including year-round school. On behalf of everyone under 18: no. Think they’d…

Lileks: A few modest proposals for 'signature' art on Nicollet Mall

How much art can you get for half a million dollars? When the venerable street gets its 21st-century makeover, $500,000 will be spent on a…

Lileks: Let's go jump in the lake

Apparently there are people who celebrate Jan. 1 by jumping into freezing water, because nothing says “Hello, new year!” like having all your skin contract…

Lileks: Here's how to be paranoid about your license plates

In 2015 there will be some questions in our august legislative body about the police department’s photo-robots that capture license plates. They say it helps…
Robert Rietow, 76: Architect of joy and builder of character

Robert Rietow, 76: Architect of joy and builder of character

The architect gave Minnesotans churches and libraries in which to become their better selves. One structure in particular made him feel proud: the Lake Harriet Band Shell.
Louise 'WeeZee' Miner: State Fair hostess with the mostest

Louise 'WeeZee' Miner: State Fair hostess with the mostest

The State Fair blares with noise and color. You could say that WeeZee Miner’s costumes and persona competed with the fair. Or, you could say the fair was just trying to top WeeZee.

Lileks: Wrapping up Christmas? You need a day to Unbox

“Happy Boxing Day!” say all the people who like English things. It’s a special post-Christmas holiday when you put on heavy leather gloves and pretend…

Lileks: Tender tidings from the Dog of Christmases Past

About 10 years ago I bought an ornament on sale. A Dog with a halo. In truth such a halo would annoy a dog; he’d…

Lileks: Does this job description fit in a tweet?

The school superintendent has resigned, and will be replaced by the school district’s CEO. In other news: The school system had a CEO. Hmm. If…

Lileks: Of course you will recycle pet hair and dryer lint

Minneapolis’ new $1.2 billion budget includes money for the city’s Zero Waste initiative, which will ensure that no zeros are wasted. They will be put…

Lileks: Time capsule should be gluten-free

I suppose I could kvetch about the NFL asking for another tax exemption — this time on tickets for events related to the 2018 Super…

Lileks: Vape 'em if you got 'em? Not around these parts

The restaurant where I worked in the ’80s had three tables in Non-Smoking, a few feet from Smoking. It was the Less-Smoking section, really. If…

Lileks: Let us now create starry, spangled wonder

So I’m standing on tiptoe on a snow-covered icy ledge, holding a 9-foot pole, trying to get a strand of lights to hang on a…

James Lileks: When phone books get 'hip' again

Hurrah! You will no longer be cursed with unwanted White Pages. No more automatic delivery of half a pulped tree. For a while there was…
Ghost of a grand hotel lingers in downtown Minneapolis

Ghost of a grand hotel lingers in downtown Minneapolis

The city of Minneapolis wants someone to build something on the Nicollet Hotel site and bring the last big empty block of the Gateway to life again.
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