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

Lileks: I come not to praise vinyl but to scratch it

News story: Sales of vinyl records have overtaken CDs. You think: They’ve sold 11 records this year, and only 10 CDs? No. About $232 million…
A trip down transit memory lane includes red MTC buses.

Lileks: So much depends upon a red bus

Driving down Nostalgia Lane in a crimson chariot.
The University of Minnesota’s campus before the mall was built -- pre-1904.

What happened to Old Main, the former heart of the University of Minnesota campus?

It’s a rare part of the city that’s been untouched by time, but this place is still around: the University of Minnesota’s campus before the…

LILEKS: Oh, right, that other virus

Saw a sign the other day that made me think: Ohhhh, right. That thing. Are you kidding me? Of all years, are you kidding me?It…
There’s an app to tell you more than you really wanted to know.

Lileks: Crime-fighting apps deliver on paranoia, but little else

There are plenty of apps that keep you apprised of crime. But they may offer more information than you bargained for.
Feeling fumble fingered at the keyboard? There’s a word for that.

Word of the week: Unkeyboardinated

If you can't type it, you are it.
Flavors of the Food Building

Flavors of the Food Building

When the Fair's epicenter for food is packed with people, you never notice this funny feature.

Lileks: It isn't always nice work even if you can get it

A Labor Day axiom: “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Says the man who loves to spend his…
James Lileks explains why the 4-H building is so tall

James Lileks explains why the 4-H building is so tall

A peek behind the scenes, including the barracks.
Fairgoers on the swings at the “Kidway” at the Minnesota State Fair in 2019.

Lileks: Now we have an excuse not to do what we usually don't do

All the things we can do next year.
Fair Minute: Reminiscing about what happens at the Grandstand

Fair Minute: Reminiscing about what happens at the Grandstand

Counting columns and reminiscing about what happens at the Grandstand.
What happens on the Midway...

What happens on the Midway...

Its skeevy past included rigged games and whoopie shows.
During the coronavirus pandemic, many home renovations and repairs will seem superfluous. Maintaining your roof is not one of them.

Lileks: Stop calling me about my roof

The other day my phone rang, which is never good news. What brute calls people? And talks? We all text now, and soon that will…
RBC and 240 Hennepin.

While workers were away: Six new buildings on the Minneapolis skyline

The pandemic hasn't stopped construction in downtown Minneapolis, where the skyline continues to change.
Take a peek at State Fair landmarks you know and (maybe) love

Take a peek at State Fair landmarks you know and (maybe) love

Seed art, beer and winning crops show up here in a normal year, but this year isn't normal.
It’s the time of year when summer slowly segues into fall.

Lileks: When does summer really end?

Quibbling over important things.

Lileks: Can you handle a bag shortage?

We have been taunted in our neighborhood for a month by a passive-aggressive ice cream truck. If that’s what it is. We haven’t seen it.…
Fairgoers took a ride on the Sky Glider.

Lileks: No fair! But what about next year?

Of course we'll miss it. Are memories enough this year?

Lileks: Ground bees are our latest infestation

With no joy I bring you news of the lawn-eating beetles, which will add their distinctive unpleasantness to the chunky goulash of calamity we call…
The seasonal aisles may not be as picked over as some years.

Lileks: The seasonal aisle tells the future

Back-to-school supplies aren't flying off the shelves. But will Halloween skeletons be wearing COVID masks?
What’s in your mailbox?

Lileks: Please, more junk mail

It's always a shock when you get that AARP card in the mail. What? I'm not old. Although the actual sound of surprise and indignation…
West Virginia University researchers were part of a team that discovered how Massospora, a parasitic fungus, manipulates male cicadas into flicking th

Lileks: Murder hornets are so passe now that we have zombie cicadas

Something else not to be alarmed about.
Fergus Falls is a small town in northern Minnesota with a quaint and walkable downtown area.

What's the future of Minnesota's small-town downtowns? Hint: It's not Mayberry

Minnesota's small-town downtowns have a future, but it won't look like past.
The Boundary Waters could be a good place to set a Minnesota scream project.

Lileks: Let's vent to the wilderness, Minnesota-style

I scream, you scream, we all scream for Iceland.
Does your face mask say I want this to be over?

Lileks: Letting your mask speak for you

Spare me the mask culture.

Lileks: Is this the end of the men's suit?

  Brooks Brothers, venerable men’s clothiers, has declared bankruptcy. Let us blame changing societal standards. I do not know if that is really the reason,…
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…