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James Lileks

Columnist | Metro
phone: 612-673-7858
James Lileks writes a metro column. He also blogs under The Blog O'Things.
Recent content from James Lileks

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.

Lileks: What's the problem with a new Trader Joe's? Just ask the Internet

If you’re reading this in the print version, thank you! But you’re missing something. I can help. First, get a scissors and some tape, and…

New app lets you know where folks are coughing and wheezing

I have a new smartphone app called "Sickweather," and it tracks illness in your immediate area. How? It scans Facebook.

Lileks: North Dakota steals a Minnesota cliche

John Oliver is a TV talker who is an expert on something new every week. He reads serious opinions in a humorous manner, and vice…

Lileks: Is it flu or Ebola? Good question

It is Flu Season, we’re told. Obvious rules apply. Stay away from people if you’re sick; don’t lick doorknobs; cough into the crook of your…

Lileks: Lack of sleep ... is it keeping you up at night?

Excuse me, do you have time for — NO. Great! So, we’re taking a survey. Do you get enough — NO. OK, I’m sorry for…

Lileks: The Amoeba of America will eventually consume us all

News today: Mall of America announces another expansion, aimed at the upscale market.News from 2047 AD: The Mall of America today announced plans for Phase…

Lileks: How to be really good at dealing with something that'll probably never happen

There are two kinds of people when it comes to disaster preparedness. 1) I have a generator, food for a month, water purification tablets, candles,…

Go slow over those speed bumps; the baby could get a concussion

Somewhere in South America right now there’s a guy driving a truckload of nitroglycerin down a narrow, snow-packed mountain road. He can tell by the…
Multifoods tower among our least favorite sights on Minnesota streets

Multifoods tower among our least favorite sights on Minnesota streets

We've spent a lot of time praising the buildings and urban details that make Minnesota streets livable and interesting. But perhaps it's time to take a look at the things that don't work.

Lileks: It's time for a short, myopic Vikings mascot

I hereby offer to replace Ragnar, the Cast-Off Vikings Mascot. To be honest, I preferred the old Vikings mascot, Hub Meeds. More dignified. An explorer,…

James Lileks: In defense of (gasp) enjoyable art

The city of Minneapolis will have more Art: The City Council approved an ordinance that will set aside 1.5 percent of the annual amount of…

Lileks: What's a virtual checkout without the trashy mags?

It wasn’t really a big surprise when Target announced they’d have junk-food-free checkout lanes, but replacing the chips and candy with cigarettes? Didn’t see that…

Lileks: Pumpkin Spice? In everything, you say

So I’m beeping groceries at the self-checkout lane, the name of which makes some people think it’s a place for admiring yourself in the mirror.…
Streetscapes: Northrop Mall works to unite a disparate U

Streetscapes: Northrop Mall works to unite a disparate U

Planned more than 100 years ago, Cass Gilbert's design gives a classical focus to the surrounding buildings.

Lileks: A great place that can be made better with a few creative descriptions

We were rolling along to Kasson, a fine little town in southern Minnesota. There were four of us: myself behind the wheel, my friend, and…

Lileks: A few more things for the perfect Minnesota State Fair

The first stories about the Minnesota State Fair are always the Best and the Newest, so it’s only fitting to make the last ones about…

Lileks: The ride home is almost as memorable as the State Fair

The bus driver threw the engine in gear and rumbled away from the State Fair Transit Plaza. “NEXT STOP, MALL OF AMERICA,” she shouted. Instant…

The fine art of eating gross amounts of food

In the end you eat too much, throw away less than you'd like, and wish that someone would put motor oil down by the transit plaza so you could be dragged by a rope to the bus.

Lileks: Minnesota State Fair is best state fair, no matter the ranking

I mean, our state fair is the best state fair, right? Not according to Country Living, which numbered us among the top five, but only for our educational exhibits.

Lileks: There's more to be learned from a few more days of freedom

Twenty years from now, all the important, high-value jobs will be taken by Minneapolis residents, and they will supervise St. Paul residents who make less…
Forget I-94 — Hwy. 10 offers a trip through Main Streets of Minnesota

Forget I-94 — Hwy. 10 offers a trip through Main Streets of Minnesota

Time and the interstate have had different effects on quintessential small towns strung along Hwy. 10.

Lileks: Minnesota has no natural beauty? Pshaw AND harrumph

Can you BELIEVE that survey that said something bad about us? No, the other one. Popular Mechanics ran the numbers and said our most popular…
Lileks: Let's make lots of breakfast-cereal beers

Lileks: Let's make lots of breakfast-cereal beers

All the surveys that proclaim the Twin Cities the greatest place to live on Earth usually mention our “craft beer scene.” Once it was a…

Lileks: Gosh, who doesn't want MORE notifications?

Like many people who spend all day staring at their phones, stabbing at the glass in a search for meaning and diversion in an empty…
Mamma 'Mee-ah'! What's wrong with INSTITUTE?

Mamma 'Mee-ah'! What's wrong with INSTITUTE?

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts now wants to be known as Mia, as in “Mee-ah.” No one’s going to call it Mee-ah. Hey, do you…

Lileks: How to break up highway monotony? Big, kitschy billboards

Just got back from a four-hour roll down Interstate 94, the highway that passes through Minnesota like a BB through a steer’s digestive system, and…

Lileks: Here's one thing you don't want on a stick at the State Fair

The State Fair starts next week, and there are some things you need to know. Such as: 1. It doesn’t really start next week. I…
Streetscapes: Dinkytown manages to stay weird, despite change

Streetscapes: Dinkytown manages to stay weird, despite change

Dinkytown always seems to be facing ruinous change. Somehow it hangs onto its ragged charm.

Lileks: Lost luggage was just the first step in this adventure

There’s no feeling quite like watching the baggage carousel stop and realizing your bag hasn’t come down. It’s like watching grade school let out for…

Minnesota emojis, for when your sentiments are passive-aggressive

It's World Emoji Day today! ;)That's not an emoji. That's an emoticon. But if I'd typed that on a phone, it would be converted to…

Maybe that bear was tryin to tell us something

When the grizzly at the Minnesota Zoo picked up a rock and smashed the glass that stood between him and having kid-kabob for lunch, maybe…

If I never smell Canada again it'll be too soon

Listen, Canada. We’ve been friends for a long time now. Good neighbors, too. You’re a decent pal and we appreciate that you never complain about…

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…
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