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James Lileks

Columnist | Variety
phone: 612-673-7858
James Lileks writes a Variety column. He also blogs under Lileks@Lunch.
Recent content from James Lileks

Lileks: Some creative new fair offerings

You can't say this is the same ol' State Fair stuff.
Every Minnesota town should have a motto, and boy there are some doozies

Every Minnesota town should have a motto, and boy there are some doozies

Mottoes aim to share civic pride, even if some fall short of a shout-out.

James Lileks: He's finally coming clean about shampoo

There are 47 bottles in the shower. Thirty-eight contain various thick, scented substances that detangle hair, add bounce and shine, impart luster, weld split ends…
Three travel questions (and three answers) about Iceland

Three travel questions (and three answers) about Iceland

Iceland is like Minnesota, on the moon, with whales and trolls. You should go.
'Stranger Things' Netflix series sells nostalgia — and gets it right

'Stranger Things' Netflix series sells nostalgia — and gets it right

"Stranger Things" Netflix series is a dead ringer for the ugliness of the early '80s.

James Lileks: When it's time for a tree to come down, do you call the pros or lose some toes?

Real men chop down their own trees. Real smart men call in experts.
James Lileks: At last, an honest school supply list

James Lileks: At last, an honest school supply list

For weeks, the giant yellow pencil has hung over the seasonal aisles of dry-goods stores, looking like a guillotine blade raised to sever summer from…
In defense of cargo shorts

In defense of cargo shorts

Let's stop the shorts-shaming and admit that these practical pants have a place the closet.
Why your passport might be useless

Why your passport might be useless

A few years ago, I made plans to fly from Minneapolis to Amsterdam to Bucharest on the day before Thanksgiving. I was going to be…

James Lileks: Jiminy! Crickets can raise a ruckus

Their annual serenade is a loud reminder that August is here — and fall is coming.

Who's got your number? A robot.

Directory assistance used to be quite simple: You dialed 411, and a complex informational retrieval and processing system responded. We called them "human beings." If…
James Lileks: Family pet is in dogged pursuit of critters (and cookies)

James Lileks: Family pet is in dogged pursuit of critters (and cookies)

True to his breeding, our dog treed a raccoon. I didn't end up a hero in that battle.

James Lileks: Burglars steal his peace of mind

Our neighborhood has suffered a spate of burglaries — I think that's the technical term. A spate. Don't want to say a rash of burglaries,…

James Lileks: The AC was out, but old tech is still cool

During the recent heat wave, an antique fan went from novelty to necessity.
Going to a family reunion? Brush up first on the survival manual

Going to a family reunion? Brush up first on the survival manual

Of all the strangest kinds of family reunions you can attend, the most unusual is the one that isn't your family. Here are some types of people you'll meet at every reunion.
The end of the VCR? WHO. CARES. But maybe you should

The end of the VCR? WHO. CARES. But maybe you should

News from Japan: The last company to make VCRs is shutting down production. If you know what a VCR is, you don't care, but if…

James Lileks: He can't wait to get home, but he'll have to

The trip through airport customs is a long, slow ending to vacation.

James Lileks: Self-serve checkout experience was no bargain

I did not steal the Steak Strips. But anyone behind me in line at the self-serve checkout would be justified in thinking I had made off with some cow slices, and in case you were there, I need to explain.
U.S. Bank Stadium looks beyond the bowl for its design

U.S. Bank Stadium looks beyond the bowl for its design

Our new stadium looks to the future, not the past, for its design cues.
James Lileks: What's a parent to do when the cola wars hit home?

James Lileks: What's a parent to do when the cola wars hit home?

The news that Pepsi was bringing back Aspartame and dumping Sucralose was met with great merriment in our house. I still remember the anguished look…

James Lileks: All laud the parade's slightly-less-than grand marshal

He had absolutely no power, but he did have lots of fun.
New Twin Cities website can locate where memories were made

New Twin Cities website can locate where memories were made

A new website lets metro-area residents locate where their personal histories were made.
Things you must do before summer's over! Or not

Things you must do before summer's over! Or not

We’re always amazed when July 4th rolls around. So soon? No one ever says, “I can’t believe it’s June 4th; where is this late-spring early-summer…
Fireworks used to have packaging that pops

Fireworks used to have packaging that pops

The old-style Chinese graphic designs on fireworks were part of our very American celebration.

James Lileks: Hundreds of channels and everything to watch

There has to be a term for this condition: the empty, vacant emotion you have when you've finished bingeing on a show on Netflix and…
Like your car? Then you'll like development happening around Southdale

Like your car? Then you'll like development happening around Southdale

Southdale is one example of evolving suburban design that accommodates cars, rather than trying to banish them.
James Lileks: Mosquito remedies can really bug us

James Lileks: Mosquito remedies can really bug us

The insects laugh in our faces – and bite our ankles – at our desperate attempts.

James Lileks: When driver's ed takes a turn for the worse

Hey Dad, Daughter said. You know how we've been driving around for 15 years having conversations and listening to music, forming a lifelong bond? It…
James Lileks: Summer drivers see lots of orange, then red

James Lileks: Summer drivers see lots of orange, then red

To save time, MnDOT could just surround the entire state with construction signs.

James Lileks: On a scale of 10, consider the virtues of being a 5. OK, a 6.

A friend noted something that happened the last time he got an oil change, and, of course, that's when I stopped listening. Dang, I needed…

James Lileks: Tiny Toast! It's Toast! And it's Tiny! Science marches on

A tiny new cereal generates big hopes for breakfast traditionalists.
Though nostalgic, slides will never be hip

Though nostalgic, slides will never be hip

My wife’s uncle said he had some old pictures of Minneapolis, taken in the early 1980s for a promotional effort. Would I like them? Oh,…
At 100 years, the Uptown is the theater that built a neighborhood

At 100 years, the Uptown is the theater that built a neighborhood

Uptown wouldn't be Uptown without the Uptown. The movie theater's tall mast broadcasts the neighborhood's name with crisp 1930s style.
James Lileks: The curse of the boulevard trees

James Lileks: The curse of the boulevard trees

Despite my minimal efforts, each new tree planted in my boulevard inevitably succumbs.
Lileks: Square doughnuts? A great debate is starting to take shape

Lileks: Square doughnuts? A great debate is starting to take shape

Looking for something small, mundane and meaningless to anger your friends? Try celebrating National Doughnut Day while humming "It's Hip to be Square."
James Lileks: Answers to some of your burning questions about grilling

James Lileks: Answers to some of your burning questions about grilling

No one ever gives tips to people who have no idea what they're doing. Allow us to help. Herewith some common questions and concerns.
Walker Art Center's mini-golf reaches new heights

Walker Art Center's mini-golf reaches new heights

Mini-golf at an art museum? Why, it's enough to make you drop your monocle into your tea.
Lileks: Joggers and extendible dog leashes are not a good combo

Lileks: Joggers and extendible dog leashes are not a good combo

Did you know there's a debate about extendible dog leashes and the walking paths around the lakes? No? Probably because there isn't one, but that won't stop me from pretending there is.

James Lileks: The past was just a phone call away

This will earn me scorn among the technologically adept, but it must be said: I picked up the phone and called the airline with a…
Why are there such slim pickings for outdoor eating in Mpls. and St. Paul?

Why are there such slim pickings for outdoor eating in Mpls. and St. Paul?

Downtown workers won't get their fill when looking for a place to lunch in the sun.

James Lileks: Store sales, not the calendar, dictate when seasons change

Sure, it's still May, but that just means we should be stocking up on supplies for the rest of the year.

James Lileks: The grass is never greener on his side of the fence

My wife can put a ballpoint pen in the dirt and it will sprout flowers. If I look at a hosta and say “la vista,”…

James Lileks: This is truly a rotten idea

Bone up on the compost collection rules or the system might end up being trashed.
Say what? Minneapolis' Downtown East gets a new, unpronounceable name

Say what? Minneapolis' Downtown East gets a new, unpronounceable name

The name that no one used for the stadium area of downtown Minneapolis is being replaced with a new name no one's likely to use.
A final farewell to Bloomington's iconic Thunderbird Motel

A final farewell to Bloomington's iconic Thunderbird Motel

Part museum, part hotel, the Thunderbird was more than just a cookie-cutter inn.

James Lileks: Search for lost keys unlocks the secrets of life

The following is a true story about losing your car keys in the one place you shouldn’t lose them. In the future, when we have…
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?
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