Staff Directory 6134704

James Lileks

Columnist | Variety
Phone: 612-673-7858

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 lileks.com, and those who don't are probably grateful for the heads-up, and will avoid it," Lileks says.
Recent content from James Lileks
Lileks: Is it ethical to force people to hear your music?

Lileks: Is it ethical to force people to hear your music?

OK, I need you to tell me if I was wrong.(Note: I was not. I have never been so right.)Last week we took a trip…
What have they done to denim?

Lileks: When your pants always fit, something's gotta be wrong

It's now possible to find pants that always fit. And offer no judgment.
“Tom & Jerry” played the ultimate cat-and-mouse game.

Lileks: Mouse-proofing, 'Tom & Jerry' style, without the hatpin in the rear

The dog's kibble has a nice palette, no doubt chosen to flatter the sensibilities of the human who buy it. Brown, beige, tan — those…
Nicollet Avenue and 4th Street 1960: Milner Hotel. Originally called the Mackey Legg Block, the building opened in 1885 and was demolished in 1960.

Skyscrapers rule downtowns, but we need smaller buildings, too

Two- and three-story buildings create character and a more human scale.
End road work....but when?

Lileks: When all the roads are finally finished

Highway construction will end someday. Really.
Lileks: Down with door-to-door dinner disturbers

Lileks: Down with door-to-door dinner disturbers

I should have a "no solicitors" sign, but one of my friends is a British lawyer, and I'd hate for him to drop by, see…
Read on for the latest scoop on ice cubes.

Lileks: Is your ice preference trendy enough?

What's the best ice?
LILEKS: Why real stores are better than online, pt. 2,239

LILEKS: Why real stores are better than online, pt. 2,239

I bought a new computer mouse the other day. Ruined it the same day. I blame the pandemic.Problem: My wife's mouse for her work laptop…
Let the chips be eaten while they may — they might be the dreaded “Limited Edition.”

Lileks: No, I will not fall for your seasonal limited edition potato chips

Lays giveth and Lays taketh away.
Centennial Plaza vintage postcard

A long-gone 1950s plaza in downtown Minneapolis boasted waterfalls and a visiting president

First, the space was turned into an ice rink, and then, in 1956, to celebrate Minneapolis' first 100 years, it was redone as Centennial Park.
At top, a pedestrian navigates a skyway Tuesday in downtown Minneapolis. Above, cars and people fill the streets near the Hennepin County Government C

What office workers can expect when they return to downtown Minneapolis

If you're heading back to your office in downtown Minneapolis, expect more than you hoped, less than you feared
Lileks: New TV tech lets you skip commercials? What a world!

Lileks: New TV tech lets you skip commercials? What a world!

It's always annoying to get ads on the streaming channels. Aren't I paying you for this already?You are, but not enough. You have the PEON…
Minneapolis Sunday Tribune

What Minneapolitans in the 1920s thought the Twin Cities would be like in 1980

Folks pictured helipads and the Borough of St. Paul.
Lileks: There's no gift as good as time

Lileks: There's no gift as good as time

A 1937 book helped kids celebrate their fathers.
Lileks: Can't grill without a password

Lileks: Can't grill without a password

Never tell a guy that you're in the market for a new grill, because he will tell you about his baby."I've got the Char-Beast 9000…
Lileks: Do masks protect against June bugs?

Lileks: Do masks protect against June bugs?

Two subjects can be cured with one solution.
Lileks: Buying pet insurance? Better hope there's no revolution

Lileks: Buying pet insurance? Better hope there's no revolution

Your dog is sick. It's heartbreaking. You think:"If only they could tell us what's wrong!" True, but if we're redesigning the whole dog experience, let's…
Lileks: Is there an Echo in here? Too bad

Lileks: Is there an Echo in here? Too bad

A new home network twist — and worry.
Target has suspended in-store sales of sports and Pokémon trading cards.

Lileks: Finally! They banned Pokémon cards

Clickbait intro: Target has pulled Pokémon cards from the shelves, and the reason might surprise you!You might think, "It's because Pokémon is over?" Hah. Pokémon…
Two “aliens” pose for a photograph in front of Imagine That Scrapbooks on Main Street in downtown Roswell, N.M., Friday, July 6, 2007, during the

Lileks: Are you alienated by the thought that UFOs are real?

Scoffers stick to the common responses.
The smell test for dog food is a different standard.

Dogs can now dine on everything from bison to turkey and blueberries; ours likes dry food just fine

Dog foods are now available in a dizzying array of raw, fresh, even subscription services. Our dog loves plain old kibble.
Really, only Farrah Fawcett transcended a ‘70s hair style.

Lileks: Back to the '70s? Ayyyy, sit on it

I cannot stress this enough: Everyone looked ridiculous, except for Farrah Fawcett.
Male (top) and female (bottom) Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are seen through a microscope.

Lileks: Here come genetically modified mosquitoes

Science-modified mosquitoes? Hmm ...
Could Mini Donuts get more mini?

Lileks: An early fair? It's against the laws of nature

I want to go to the fair.I don't want to go to the fair."Fascinating," you say in a bored tone; "do let us know how…
Streetscapes

Starting as early as 1919, Minneapolis planners had big ideas for city

Since 1919, Minneapolis Planning Commission has looked to the future.
Three Bird scooters were on the sidewalk in downtown Minneapolis.

Lileks: It's OK to deploy and deplore the return of the scooters

Another back-to-normal moment — we can worry about scooters again.
Investigating a crime on Wikipedia could lead you down a rabbit hole.

Lileks: Wikipedia wants me to do what?

I use Wikipedia a lot, and now and then they ask me for money. Now and then I give them money."What?" you say. "You fool!…
Marnie the Dog attended Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black” OrangeCon celebration in 2015 in New York.

Your dog might become internet-famous, with a bit of luck and crooked ears

Whether it's because of sweet behavior or a crooked smile, dogs can gain millions of followers.
What shape is your licorice supply?

Lileks: When is licorice not licorice?

It's not a medium. It's not a shape.
The TV remote is never where you want it.

Lileks: No one should ever lose the remote

It seems to be the purpose of the media these days to make you unhappy about living in an age of miracles, so let me…
An artist’s conception of 1967 Minneapolis, post-urban renewal.

In 1957, city leaders thought Minneapolis would be a futuristic city by 1967

In 1957, city leaders and planners laid out a vision for Minneapolis in 1967. How much of it came true?
Star Tribune illustration, istock Phones have us hunching over.

Lileks: Look at your phone so it can tell you not to look at your phone

Now there's an app to keep us from looking dumb.
Are you caught up on your ketchup shopping?

Lileks: Do you relish the thought of a ketchup shortage?

A story from theHill.com revealed the ways people are dealing with the ketchup shortage. They're paying a premium price to buy fast-food ketchup packets…
Got the shot yet?

Lileks: How to let everyone know you're jabbed

After deciding on a vaccine, we have to pick a way to announce it.
Lileks: Do all husbands have a genetic shopping deficiency?

Lileks: Do all husbands have a genetic shopping deficiency?

Guests were due in an hour for brunch. My wife was doing kitchen things. You know, sautéing, reducing, clarifying, crisping, probably broasting, whatever that is.…
Cleaning like there are rats among us.

Lileks: Will we ever get over our pandemic cleaning fetish?

The pandemic has taught us to assume the worst.
Do you remember what this is? It comes in handy in restaurants.

Lileks: Remember restaurants? A refresher course

Washington Post headline: "Help, I've gone feral! After a year away from restaurants, I need a refresher course."Oh, come on. It's like riding a bike.…
Northstar Center

Northstar Center, once building of the future, is emblem of Minneapolis' past

At the time it was built, the Northstar Center embodied the hope of urban vitality.
Lileks: How to know Netflix is on to you

Lileks: How to know Netflix is on to you

Password sharing will be softly discouraged.
Emerald ash borer infestations lead to removal.

Lileks: Time for the tree-reapers again

You hate to see it: The green band of paint around a tree trunk. You cycle quickly through the stages of grief: No! Looks fine…
Girl Scout Cookies aren’t a controlled substance, but they should be.

Lileks: No snow, so it's Thin Mint time?

Is it Girl Scout Cookie season?
There was high hopes for the Sheridan Hotel at 11th and Marquette in Minneapolis.

The dashed dreams of the Sheridan Hotel in 1920s downtown Minneapolis

Marquette Avenue and S. 11th Street. They dreamed big in the '20s, but their visions exceeded the depth of their pocketbooks. The envisioned Sheridan was…
Lileks: Winning the extended-warranty game

Lileks: Winning the extended-warranty game

The Amazon reviews were almost unanimous: One star. Total junk. Don't buy.Naturally, I clicked "Add to my cart." And then I clicked the one button…
The perils of post-melt grit.

Lileks: What to do with winter's grit?

If it's not one thing, it's another.
Lileks: 'Fork-split' and other lies

Lileks: 'Fork-split' and other lies

English muffins often split into two unequal parts, and then fall apart in the process. Don't you hate that with an unreasonable, all-consuming fury?Rejoice. There…
A revamped Crystal Court in the IDS Center will feature new seating and canopies of trees expected to grow 24 feet tall.

Crystal Court, the heart of Minneapolis for almost 50 years, gets some TLC

The Crystal Court in the IDS Center is getting its first upgrade since 1998.
Look: Tempus fugit!

Lileks: If we save some daylight, will it earn interest?

What if we never had to change the clocks again?
Deep Nostalgia animates faces in still photos.

Lileks: Deep Nostalgia uses artificial intelligence to bring Grandma's photo to life

Have you brought a dead relative back to life recently?I've revived a half-dozen in the past few days, with varying degrees of success. Grandma was…
Joseph Long cleared a sidewalk in Minneapolis in February. Still might be too soon to store the snowblowers.

Lileks: In Minnesota, March Madness refers to weather, not basketball

If it snows, it's normal. If it doesn't, it's normal.
It’s time to talk about what’s wrong with some of you people, and what’s wrong with me.

Lileks: On the weary feeling you have to have an opinion on Post Office trucks

If I can be honest, it's time to talk about what's wrong with some of you people, and what's wrong with me. But first we…
Shoppers made their way through Rosedale Center as some of the stores opened for business last spring.

Lileks: A double sawbuck to get into a mall?

How we can save shopping malls not named "Rosedale."
Laughing emoticon with tears of joy

Lileks: Who's crying for the Face With Tears of Joy?

I regret to inform you that the Face With Tears of Joy emoji is over. It is not cool anymore. It is actually hated.This is…
green bowl with spoon on white plastering plate

Lileks: Another shortage stuns a weary nation

The nation grapples with another shortage.
Lileks: If there's no office, can we dump office jargon?

Lileks: If there's no office, can we dump office jargon?

Every profession has its own particular jargon. In the military, it's cumbersome, technical and oddly evasive: a smoke bomb is a "kinetically deployed obfuscatory visual-hindrance…
Scott Boie, on a walk around Lake Nokomis, said “There is no such thing as bad weather only inappropriate clothing.”

Lileks: Why do we say the cold is bitter?

Is there such a thing as a happy, grateful cold?
Got your tools ready? How about the number for the furniture instruction hotline?

Lileks: What if a furniture assembly project ...was easy?

Ikea, which is Swedish for "three screws left over," has announced that it no longer will put out a catalog. What's the point of felling…
Dale Findlay is eager to work and dismisses suggestions that he’s overqualified for some jobs.

Eagan man downplays his disability. He just wants to work.

It's not just a matter of money, but a matter of losing one's ability to make a difference.
Are your washer and dryer wedded even after death?

Lileks: A permanently pressing question: What to get for Valentine's Day?

Valentine's Day again? Rinse, repeat.
No matter what you name your dog, will it come when you call it’s name?

What are the top dog names in the Twin Cities?

Pet owners in the Twin Cities tend toward the classics.
MeWe Homepage

Lileks: Do we really need a new social media platform?

First, the good news: There's a new social media platform!Now, the bad news: There's a new social media platform!It's called MeWe, which could be the…
Registered nurse Darcey McCampbell measured a dose of the Pfizer COVID vaccine.

Lileks: Knowing the vaccine timing would be a real shot in the arm

When will someone jab you with a sharp stick?
Remember when paper towels were plentiful on aisle endcaps? These days we select any size.

Lileks: Size really does matter sometimes

Does paper towel size change our usage habits?
Icy sidewalks are a challenge even if you don’t need a cane.

Lileks: All of Minnesota is a skating rink

How not to fall.
Delivery tracking can make you wonder if you could have walked there faster.

Lileks: Shippers' tracking numbers track our frustration

My wife was on the phone. She had the posture of a floor lamp, which indicated both concentration and irritation."NO," she said. She paused. "NO.""Are…
Alex Riley, an associate librarian with the Arvonne Fraser Library in Minneapolis, processed returned books.

Lileks: Out: fines. In: gentle shaming

The Hennepin County Library System has announced that it no longer will charge fees for overdue books. You know this has the Grumpy-American community duly…
High resolution 3D render of Planet Earth.

Lileks: Turning to Martha Stewart for the latest spin on science news

This is good news or bad, depending on your view: The Earth is spinning faster than ever, and that means the days are shorter. Have…
istock What color are the Yellow Pages on the internet?

Lileks: Yes, the phone book still exists

They still produce phone books? Why?
A city of St. Paul snow plow worked near the Minnesota State Capitol.

You can name a Minnesota snowplow

The kooky contest, which started in Scotland, is gaining traction here.
These hunters found the elusive Golden Gnome in a St. Paul park Thursday. From left: Mason Thorson, 7, and Mack and Mace Peterson, both 5. The tree gn

Lileks: Can you find the nonexistent hidden prize?

Follow the clues and earn big bucks — well, buck.
Ceiling fans are the latest worry to cap 2020.

Lileks: The last story of the bad year? Killer ceiling-fan blades

It will be nice when we hear that honeybees are plentiful and monarch butterflies are returning in record numbers, and the evenings are full of…
Star Tribune illustration  TCF Bank name changes

Lileks: Another local name, kaput

With TCF sale, another familiar local name passes from the banking scene.
A man walks toward the McDonald’s near the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis as a car waits at the drive-thru window.

The Dinkytown McDonald's has closed: Remembering the U of M's golden arches

No one's nostalgic for the Dinkytown McD's. But some of us are nostalgic for who they were when they went there.
What’s your plan for a tornado?

Lileks: Who knew masks prevented sirens

The butterfly effect and you.
What obscure gadget will land in your Amazon cart this year?

Lileks: Never Trust The Amazon Reviews

Did you miss Cyber Monday? It's the only thing anyone calls "Cyber" anymore. In the '90s, they slapped "cyber" on anything to give it a…
There’s a move to eliminate license plate tabs in Michigan. One less thing to stand in line for.

Lileks: The Glitch that Stole Tabsmass

The secret to balanced budgets.