Ready for Our Close-Up

Barely two hours after the first round of American Idol auditions began, the sidewalk outside Target Center is abuzz with distressed-looking people on cell phones, seeking, no doubt, some form of satellite consolation. Some of them are tearful. Some are stone-faced. These folks are among the many who sang their hearts out for thirty seconds, […]

The Genie and His Decorative Light-Diffusing Novelty Lamp

For a guy who spends all year thinking about Halloween, Will Niskanen could hardly be described as scary. Slight and soft-spoken, dressed in khakis and brown loafers, and exhibiting the good manners of a Boy Scout, Niskanen greets me at one of his favorite haunts, Mill City Cafe, pulling out a chair and offering to […]

Hot and Very, Very Heavy

Michael McGillis is at the Franconia Sculpture Park, standing in a pile of cut-and-scattered wood. He’s wearing shorts, heavy work boots, and a straw hat, and is looking sweaty and overwhelmed. His work in progress, Paper Cut, isn’t really turning out the way he’d planned. He began by digging a curving trench; in his mind’s […]

The Junk Lady

“I consider myself extremely lucky,” artist Judy Onofrio has said. “Every day, I have the opportunity to construct a world of memory, humor, and stories through my work in the studio. Best of all, I live in that world and invite others in.” It is in this spirit of openness that the 2005 McKnight Distinguished […]

Five and Dimed in America

A few miles from the McStop off 35W, down a road that winds along black-dirt fields and stretches into downtown Lakeville, you’ll find the last Twin Cities-area Ben Franklin five-and-dime store. Once a staple of small-town Minnesota, and the anchor in any tiny downtown, Ben Franklin was the place we all biked to on our […]

The Price of Sleep

As I was standing recently in front of MinneNAPolis PowerNap Suites, a dimly lit store in the Mall of America, a herd of teenagers in hooded sweatshirts and sagging, crack-revealing jeans sauntered by and collectively stated the obvious: “Dude! Check it out. No way. This place is, like, for napping. Who would do that?” In […]


Late last year, toy giant Mattel and media behemoth Clear Channel Entertainment breathlessly announced the formation of an “acclaimed, award-winning creative team to bring ‘Barbie™ Live in Fairytopia!™’ to stages across north America.” For the first time ever (!), Barbie’s tiny, impossibly three-dimensional form (by most estimates, a 39-21-33 D-cup) will be springing to life […]

Slim Janes

Maybe you’ve seen the new billboards on Snelling, Grand, or Highway 94: “Banana Chips Can Cause Figure Skating,” and “Fun-Size a Cow”—ads enjoining us to rediscover or reconsider the meat snack, those salty mystery sticks most of us save for camping trips or are storing for the apocalypse. Those tough, pungent treats most of us […]

The Technology of Spirit

Offering perhaps conclusive proof that fewer Americans are reading these days, Best Buy’s health and wellness retail experiment, called Eq-Life, will soon occupy the space vacated by Grand Avenue’s now defunct independent bookstore, Bound to Be Read. It’s worth noting that about a mile down the street, the space left open by Ruminator’s closure is […]

Retail Therapy

Maybe I’m just jealous because my therapist has never given me a flat-screen TV, but it seemed that for a while, every time I turned on the Dr. Phil show, someone who’d struggled to face his or her demons was being rewarded with merchandise from Circuit City or a travel package from I’ve long […]