Staff Directory 10645306

James Lileks

Columnist | Variety
Phone: 612-673-7858
Location: Minneapolis
Other languages: None

James Lileks is a Star Tribune columnist. 

Lileks, a Minneapolis resident since 1976: "I've never repeated myself once. I don't like to say I write a 'humor' column, since that's subjective. What might be amusing to me might leave you poker-faced. Let's just say my columns are not intended to be taken seriously." He also writes "Streetscape" pieces, which detail the delights and errors, past and present, of the Twin Cities urban environment. He's the author of four novels, four pop-culture "humor" books on vintage subjects and two collections of columns. "People who like my stuff will probably like, and those who don't are probably grateful for the heads-up, and will avoid it," Lileks says.
Recent content from James Lileks
COVID may have killed cash transactions.

Lileks: Plastic on the barrelhead, pal

How COVID killed the double-sawbuck.
At peak pandemic panic, shoppers found empty shelves for high demand products, such as toilet paper, bottled water and hand sanitizer.

Lileks: What does hand sanitizer cost? Who knows

At some point while restocking the home supplies, I realized I was preparing for the next pandemic. When flour was in short supply, I bought…
When the sunglasses vanished, things looked bleak.

Lileks: How will we cope with the looming stick shortage?

It was time for the celebrated Minnesota tool.
Minnesota law limits the bang you get for your buck.

Lileks: Why are fireworks in Minnesota so wimpy?

They're harmless fun, if you follow the law — which prohibits anything that goes up or explodes.
Fireworks went off over Target Field in July 2019.

Lileks: Already looking forward to next year's fireworks

I'll miss the oohing and ahhing, but not the traditional race to the car after the show.
Image from vintage postcard Calhoun Bath House.

Did you know? There was once a bathhouse on the shores of Bde Maka Ska

The original bathhouse had one interesting characteristic: no roof.
Some of the best Father’s Day gifts come from the heart.

Lileks: Remembering the useless screwdriver on Father's Day

Skip the wallet. Think of something for the wallet.
You can't negotiate with ants.

Lileks: You can't negotiate with ants

  I am absolutely serious: if you guys can figure out a way to go after mosquitoes, you can have all the patio sand you…
Virginia "Ginny" Anderson

Virginia Mae 'Ginny' Anderson, a longtime bank teller and editorial librarian, dies of COVID-19 at 91

For almost 40 years with the Second Northwestern Bank of Minneapolis on University Avenue, Virginia Mae “Ginny” Anderson was the smiling face at the teller’s…
Dining at a restaurant has been a welcome change from three months of takeout and cooking at home. Diners at Afro Deli in St. Paul took advantage of t

Lileks: Scenes from a post-lockdown meal

To some, the phrase “going out to eat” is akin to a World War I soldier announcing he’s going to stick his head over the…
Bangkok, Thailand - Feb 12, 2020. Cat snack many products in pet shop

A Minneapolis pet food shelf is there when times get rough

Pet food shelves allow owners to stock up on food and supplies they might not be able to afford.
Young woman using cellphone to send text message.

Word of the week: Typerventilated

Take a deep breath before you send that next text.

Lileks: What we'll lose if we lose movie theaters

The AMC movie chain says it might not survive these Unprecedented Times. I have lots of memories of the Southdale AMC complex. Dropping Daughter off…
Shopping cart in supermarket. Caucasian or latin man hands hold shopping trolley in supermarket aisle.

Lileks: We're getting used to getting used to things

Good thing we're an adaptable species.
Using the snake felt like poking spaghetti through a keyhole. Milwaukee Tool

Lileks: How not to unstop a stopped drain

Q: Can someone shove a tennis ball down a shower drain? A: Apparently so. Let me back up. One of the more popular boasts on…
A maintenance worker dusted in a skyway over 3rd Ave. S. in downtown Minneapolis.

Minneapolis' skyways are getting little use now, but they'll eventually be popular again

While they're getting little use now, these essential downtown connectors will eventually come back to life.
Google's reach is broad, and now the internet giant wants to get into the financial services industry by offering consumers checking accounts.

Lileks: Google has a list of words each state can't spell. It's wierd (stet)

You'd think we'd know that word by now.
Now you can control your sprinkler from your phone. Or can you?

Lileks: What was the matter with ordinary sprinklers? No app

The spring rains have been nice, but you know that eventually we'll see a fortnight of hot sun that will turn the lawn to straw.…
Southdale Center, Edina, MN ] GLEN STUBBE • Friday, October 26, 2018

Lileks: An archaeological expedition to the mall

Not a lot to do on Day One.

Lileks: What's open? The tie department

The lockdown has been modified, and no doubt you have questions. I don’t know why you’re ignoring sections of the newspaper with actual facts in…
A sign at a Kroger store in Atlanta limits shoppers to three packages of ground beef on Tuesday, May 5, 2020. Kroger is limiting meat purchases, like

Lileks: We're too cowed by COVID to beef about the meat shortage

Let's try an experiment to see how we really feel.
My dog swallowed a bunny and I ended up learning a lesson in gratitude

My dog swallowed a bunny and I ended up learning a lesson in gratitude

My rabbit-devouring dog ended up at the vet and I learned a lesson about being thankful.
A trip to Walberswick, England, a village on the Suffolk Coast just a few hours from London, leads to simple pleasures, such as a walk on a dirt path.

Daydreaming of the next trip: An English village in Suffolk waits, unchanged

Walberswick, Suffolk, England: It’s a tiny village on the coast that checks off every requisite of the classic English hamlet — minus the murders solved…
Washington State Department of Agriculture entomologist Chris Looney displays a dead Asian giant hornet, a sample brought in from Japan for research.

Lileks: We are already SO over the murder hornets

If you just woke up from a yearlong coma and turned promptly to this column, let me sum things up as gently as I can.A…
Cloth bags have gone from expected to rejected during the pandemic.

Lileks: Without my reusable bag, no one knows what I believe

An unforeseen consequence of our times.
Pain-point case in point? Trying to use a cloth bag at self checkout stations.

Word of the week: Pain-point

Don't get sore at the word of the week

Lileks: We can't mask how tired we are of this

The looser the straps, the itchier your nose. That wouldn’t be a problem if we hadn’t eaten so much lockdown bread. I should explain, and…
Tennis balls and racket on the grass court

Lileks: Tennis players have no love for Minneapolis court closures

The problem is that someone somewhere could touch something.
With most people working from home, the skyways, or “the streets of Minneapolis,” are nearly empty.

Where does Minneapolis seem most deserted? The skyways

City sidewalks aren't the real measure of how vacant Minneapolis is right now.

Lileks: A new e-mail scam? Or just Ping-Pong?

I’m going to say the most dangerous word on the internet. I can’t vouch for your safety. Your paper might catch fire if you say…

Lileks: How many sirens do we need?

Siren at mid-month, sailor's self-quarantine?

Lileks: I hope that I shall never see a tree mouth

This Arbor day, restore your emotional equilibrium by hugging a table leg. Let me explain. You might be surprised to learn that Arbor Day is…
Have we become relaxed -- in a jiggly-toilet-handle way?

Lileks: Some start to think pandemic, schmandemic

The constant fear makes no allowances for plumbing.

Lileks: Lessons from the Seed Wars

  Can we not talk about it for a while? It seems a strange request, because we don’t talk about it much, specifically. It’s like…
Two white Adirondack chairs

Lileks: The quarantine's upside is that we're finally sitting down

On a walk around the block the other day, I saw a man in his front yard, tossing a little kid in the air for…
The Mary Tyler Moore statue on Nicollet Mall got a mask and rubber glove, perhaps for levity in the face of the Coronavirus, and seen Wednesday, April

Lileks: Anyone checked on how Mary Richards is doing?

We should toss our hats and scoff at stiff licorice. What, you want an explanation for that? Fine. It started when I heard our Mary…
Come and get it: Sheltering at home with Birch means extra treats ­— and happiness ­— for Birch.

'Personalized meal plans' help you pamper your pooch during lockdown

It's easy to make your dog — and yourself — happy. Just give it a treat and stand back and watch.
Pumping your own gas can be a touchy subject these days.

Lileks: Maybe it's time to bring back the gas pump jockeys

Now we miss the days of full-serve gas.
Eddie Hoeschen, 2, rode on his grandfather Kevin's shoulders as they walked through a thick crowd at the 2019 Minnesota State Fair.

Lileks: Can we do the State Fair in the era of social distancing?

On a necessary venture into the coronaviral miasma, I found myself in a line that seemed stretched a mile away from the register. Sounds bad…

Lileks: Coronabod, here we come

We're all gaining weight together.
The Lutheran Brotherhood building in downtown Minneapolis in the 1950s.

Long gone, the Lutheran Brotherhood building was a breath of fresh air in the 1950s

Among all the brick and stone of downtown Minneapolis, the Lutheran Brotherhood must have seemed like a cool drink of fresh water. Finished in 1956,…

Lileks: Waiting for the sounds of spring

  These are not official statistics, but some sources say that 100% of the population is sick of COVID-19. Not from it; of it. Nevertheless,…

Lileks: We need a new shaming standard

It's time to become aggressively passive-aggressive.
Members of the American Red Cross remove Spanish influenza victims from a house in St. Louis in 1918.

How the news media played down the pandemics of yore, from Spanish flu to Swine flu

Before the explosion of social media, pandemic news was more sedate.

Lileks: Kids coming back from college full of learnin' and COVID

Ting! Goes the phone. Ah, text from Daughter at college. Hey I’m all ears; do go on. Ting! Have Ting! Some news Why are you…
Family members and volunteers offer up as many as 800 pancakes an hour at the annual benefit breakfast.

At annual memorial breakfast in New Prague, kindnesses stack up

The New Prague Knights of Columbus Hall will honor the memory of a beloved patriarch with pancakes.
Video chats just aren't the same as being at work.

Lileks: What could possibly be the problem with us all telecommuting?

Of course everyone can work from home!
Jude Law as Alan Krumwiede in the thriller “Contagion.”

6 movies about pandemics to watch (or avoid) if you're stuck at home

Stay home, wash your hands (and your TV remote) and enjoy these outbreaks.

LILEKS: The most precious glop in the world right now

James LileksLast week I went to buy hand sanitizer. Oh, no reason!Sometimes you just like to slather your palms with viscous zingy goop. And sometimes…
Look out! It’s pothole season.

Lileks: Let's fill potholes with our tax bills

If only we could have a sign in the neighborhood like you see on the highways: "You will not have your tailbone slammed into your soft palate thanks to road improvements paid for by the following citizens."
Wash your hands -- it's the most important way to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

Lileks: Just don't call it a plaguecation

Let's say you have to stay home until the tanker trucks can go through all the neighborhoods and hose everything down with Purell or chlorine gas. Can you make it?
Well, we all know what this sign means.

Lileks: Are mysterious pop cans marking homes for theft?

This could be like the hobo code of yore.
Driveway leading to Red Owl loading dock, below Southdale Center parking lot, Edina.

With Kowalski's coming to Southdale, the first U.S. mall gets closer to roots

With the addition of a grocery store, Southdale moves one step closer to its original vision as a community hub.

Lileks: Getting in touch with your inner Julia Child

Remember meal kits? There were about 347 companies offering them a few years ago. All the rage. The pitch was simple: Why shop for groceries…

Lileks: The joys of boiler repair

"Tic-tic-tic-tic." "Phoomph." "Gosh!"That is what you want to hear when it's 10 below. The gosh, however could be a problem.The tic-tic-tic is the furnace's igniter.…
Even longtime Twin Cities residents have trouble remembering the rules for snow emergencies.

Lileks: There are rules for snow emergencies — but can you remember them?

It snowed? How's that an emergency? The word implies some sort of unanticipated disaster. Snow is what it does here in the winter.

Lileks: New purchase fails to spark joy

Last week, Gallup released a poll that said that 90% of Americans describe themselves as "happy." I'll bet they all have Instant Pots. Those are…
If you want a morning Bloody Mary or an Evening Blue Martini, you’re going to need to wait until 6 a.m.

Lileks: The airport needs a laughing gas kiosk

Do we really need to start drinking at 5 a.m.?
January was all gloomy skies. Will a new month mean more sunshine?

Lileks: How Minnesotans cope with the sunless midwinter mope

The skies have been cloudy all day — and most of the month.
The Furbo ($249) allows pet owners to watch — and treat — their dogs remotely.

Furbo dispenses remote-control treats, love and confusion to your pet

A new dog camera allows you to keep your pet close — and in kibbles — even when you're far away.

LILEKS: The future of grocery store checkouts – awful or awesome?

The self-checkout at the grocery store was not happy with me. Not happy at all. The robot voice sternly announced, “Unexpected item in bagging area.”…
Slow and steady at least finishes the race.

The word of the week: Slowmentum

Slow and easy and proud of it.

Lileks: How to troubleshoot the inexplicable

Have you heard of Disney+?It's a new streaming service that lets you watch, for a monthly fee, the movies you saw in theater, then bought…

Lileks: How many gloves have you lost?

Maybe they ran off with the missing socks.
Sure, it looks pretty when it falls. But that pristine white doesn’t last forever, and eventually you’re left with snirt.

Word of the week: Meltschmerz

When snow becomes a dirty word.

Lileks: How to be an idiot at the airport

I had an exciting experience at the airport that I've been awaiting for years. I saw something, and then I said something. I've done that…
Detail of the blue bulbs that illuminate the Christmas ball. ] JEFF WHEELER • There's a new player in the holiday light

Lileks: Are your holiday lights still up?

Yes, it'll be a bit sad to see the neighborhoods less bright. But it's a sign of hope to take down the lights. It means that the end of winter is coming.
Minneapolis’ tallest building was once the Foshay Tower, foreground, an obelisk.

Think the Minneapolis skyline is unique? Think again – we have copycat buildings in our midst

Some of our landmark buildings aren't so unique. Others are ours alone.

Lileks: To read this online, you must accept my new privacy policy

Start setting aside egg beaters, right now. Trust me. Why? I’ll explain. In 10 years you’ll read stories about people who make a nice living…
Vector illustration of a man with a flu or cold lying in bed. He looks tired, has a red nose, is snorting and sweating, has an ice bag on his head and

Lileks: Never mind the flu – there's (always) a cold going around

If you say you feel like you’re getting a cold, someone’s sure to say, “Yeah, there’s one going around.” As if there’s a designated office…

LILEKS: Hot sauce heaven, or hell?

Growing up in North Dakota, the hottest thing I ever ate was a radish. "Angry hard-berries," we called them. They seemed to suggest there was…
A crew arrived to de-ice the sidewalk at the 38th St. Station on the Blue line in south Minneapolis in February.

Lileks: If you can't deal with slipping on the ice, don't live in Minnesota

It comes with living in a state that's frozen half the year.
The Francis Drake Hotel in Minneapolis (shown circa 1931) opened in 1924 and cost “nearly One-Half Million Dollars.”

In its heyday, Drake Hotel offered Old World allure

Built in 1926, Minneapolis hotel lost to Christmas fire slipped into second-tier status after a decade or two.
How spooky is your avatar?

Word of the week: Spookitar

Who's afraid of Twitter?
Are you ready for some '20s?

What we think about decades past might not be so

How we define a decade has to do with what sticks in our collective memory.