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 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
Have we seen the end of the icy puddles?

Lileks: We're good on winter-building character – just give us spring

This whopper of a winter made saints of us all.
.

Lileks: The anxiety of customer taco surveys

I enjoy online customer satisfaction surveys. After all, my opinion is very important to them — except when it’s a case of me being too…
An outdoor pool was among the amenities at the Curtis Hotel Motor Lodge, with Judy Schaefer (left) and Marilynn Johnson taking their ease in 1957.

Why midcentury motels failed in downtown Minneapolis

Affordable, accessible motor inns were once the place to stay downtown. That all began to change in the 1960s.
I-35W, seen from the E. 26th St. Bridge in Minneapolis in December.

Lileks: I-35W reconstruction project is where time (and traffic) stand still

If highway designers knew then what we know now.

Lileks: Untangling the bogus names of espresso pods

I am not a coffee snob. I treat it like I do pizza: No matter how bad it is, it's still pizza. Logically, this means…
We can't wait. Spring has sprung at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, photographed Wednesday, May 2, 2018. Although a small variety of flowers have b

Lileks: It's time to spring forward, in more ways than one

March is the first point when we can start to indulge the annual mass delusion we call "hope."
“The Thin Man” starred Myrna Loy and William Powell, with Skippy as Asta.

The famous dog that bit 'Thin Man' co-star Myrna Loy

Skippy, best known for his role as Asta in the "Thin Man" movies, was a movie star in the glamorous 1930s.
The recent cold snap is a reminder of how skyways make downtown livable — and unique. The view toward Target Center down 6th Street.

Winter reminds us why we love the Twin Cities skyways

Not everyone thinks highly of these aboveground, indoor sidewalks. But our recent deep freeze was a reminder of how the skyways make downtown not just livable, but unique.

Lileks: Breakfast-cereal beer is the worst idea so far this week

Three words to confuse and alarm:Lucky Charms Beer.This sounds like something you'd write down in the middle of the night so you'd be sure to…
Riverside Plaza in Minneapolis is mostly concrete and dominates its site with massive proportions.

Why the Brutalist architecture style in the Twin Cities is literally painful

For a while, it was thought to be forward looking. Now it's widely considered inhumane.
A pedestrian walked across Girard Avenue S. in Minneapolis.

Lileks: Is it too late to give back 2019?

If you clicked "accept," you're stuck with this year.

Lileks: Everything about moviegoing is better today, except the theaters

If you talk to the filmmakers who vote for the Academy Awards, you expect them to say:"My choice, while difficult, was based on the director's…
Francis Barraud’s 1895 painting of Nipper looking into an Edison Bell cylinder phonograph. Edison declined an offer to use it in advertising.

The hidden history behind Nipper, one of the most famous dogs in the world

It's one of the most famous trademarks of the 20th century: a dog looking at a gramophone horn, from the 1898 painting "His Master's Voice."
Now: Traffic on the way back from Target was awful. Then: Folks feared for their own demise in the blinding storm.

Lileks: Winter could be worse, and was

How Minnesotans reacted to snowstorms in the good old days vs. now.
Cecil’s Delicatessen is often a family affair. Amy Levinson, whose father owns the deli, worked the tables during a recent lunch rush.

Restaurants come and go, but Cecil's Deli in St. Paul has lasted since 1949

Cecil and Faye Glickman's neighborhood landmark is now seeing its fourth generation on the job.

Lileks: How an empty freezer shelf reveals a vast conspiracy

If you never hear from me again, it's because I discovered the French toast conspiracy. They already took down Aunt Jemima. I don't know if…
If a street has been plowed, you can park there, but you'll worry the whole time.

Lileks: What you should know about snow emergency rules

Don't park anywhere ever, and you're fine.
Between cellphones, streaming services and gym memberships, the monthly bills can add up quickly.

Lileks: How to lie your way out of recurring bills

In the past week, I've been cutting cords, sundering long-standing relationships and cleaning the deadwood out of my life. The first to go: daughter's health club membership.
Be careful out there.

Lileks: Surviving a Minnesota winter takes grit

It's ice until April, so stock up on sidewalk sand.
Actor Chris Pratt, left, seen in an Anheuser-Busch commercial seen during last year's Super Bowl, and actress-model Cindy Crawford seen in a Pepsi com

Lileks: Did you see that Super Bowl commercial? Which one?

Which Super Bowl commercial are you discussing around the water cooler today? The one where Steve Carell did that thing for Coke? Or was it Pepsi? Doesn't matter; it was funny.
It's still looking a lot like Christmas.

Lileks: Are your holiday lights still burning?

You've possibly forgotten they're even on.
The 12-story Nicollet Hotel, shown in 1987, was the first building in Minneapolis to be built in the set-back style that gets narrower at the top.

Once-chic Nicollet Hotel in Mpls. Gateway District was design 'triumph'

Rising on the site of the 1858 Nicollet House, the hotel was financed by the public, and torn down in 1991. United Properties has proposed a 33-story glass office tower for the site.
Surfer Randy Carlson of Duluth, Minn., is coated in ice but happy after riding waves on New Year's Day on Stoney Point, Tuesday, January 1, 2019 in Tw

Lileks: When is it OK to scream your head off in public?

This shouldn't be controversial, but someone needs to say it: We're entitled to yell "GUYAHHGH!" when it's below zero.
.

Lileks: Piping up about gas pipe plan

I'm not interested in personal pipe empowerment.
.

Lileks: Here's the cold truth: It's OK to hate winter

When the polar vortex strikes, you realize we don’t have enough words to describe extreme cold. Well, nothing you can say within a block of…
.

Lileks: Before seat belts, there was Mom's arm

Everyone has some parenthood story that makes them wince, right?
Get ready for Aromatherapy Book Club Yoga, now with Wine Tasting!

Lileks: Adult education classes for the bored and annoyed

  It’s the middle of the month of the new year, and you haven’t reduced your screen time, learned French, lost weight, organized the drawers…
The doors at St. Olaf Catholic Church in Minneapolis.

Beautiful doors on Twin Cities buildings make a statement

Though they're often overlooked, doors reveal a lot about a building and its era.
Alexander’s wounding in the fight against the Malli (326/ 325 BC), Alexander was seriously wounded by an arrow on the lungs. Although Alexander surv

Peritas the dog leaves a legacy of greatness

The (only slightly embellished) tale of one of the heroic dogs of history.
Could a nasty snowstorm be in our future?

Lileks: Looking for a winter forecast? Ask an Old Farmer, or a Presumably Younger Farmer

The battle of the almanac predictors leaves us cold.

The word of the week: Blanduary

Week's word is welcomely bland.

Lileks: Eight new diets you can fail to use successfully

How's the new diet going? What, you haven't started? C'mon, we're already into Week 2 of this "New Year, New You" thing. Here are some…
The castle of Kronberg near Frankfurt, Germany (not the headquarters of Der Spiegel).

Lileks: Insult Fergus Falls? Take that, German magazine!

Sauce for der gander, nein?
How far into the new year will your resolutions carry you?

A Word of the Week: Fizzelusion

This is one you'll resolve not to use, a resolution you can keep.
Is it too late to send holiday cards?

Lileks: Hey, let's add another holiday obligation

If the holiday cards arrive today, they're technically on time, right?
Between 1964 and 1973 Midwest Federal created these bold round banks in Twin Cities suburbs.

Banking boom brought flair to midcentury Minnesota bank buildings

Many banks in Minnesota now have new uses, but their original designs give them away.
.

Lileks: Is this really the best time for a new year?

Why start a new year now, when all is bleak and the fun is over?
What if Scrooge had to see a fourth spirit of Christmas?

Lileks: Scrooge meets the Ghost of Social Media Christmas

With apologies to Charles Dickens, we offer this update to “A Christmas Carol.” It was Christmas afternoon, and Scrooge had stepped outside his nephew’s house…
.

Lileks: Beware: Is it a gift request or a trap?

There is a terrifying moment in a man's life when he asks his wife what she wants for Christmas, and she tells him.
A woman pushes her shopping cart on Black Friday at a Target store in Plainville, Mass.

The word of the week: Targetvu

Aisle be back.
.

Lileks: Please let the boomers' music die

When we complain about Christmas music, it’s not the songs themselves. It’s the way they’re forced upon us. Also, it’s the songs themselves. Consider a…

Lileks: Baby, it's cold outside, and that's how it should be

Everyone copies us at the holidays.
Tim Lee • The News & Observer
Multitasking at the holidays, can be a little too tasking.

Word of the week: Holifrazzle

The season to be frazzled
.

Lileks: What do you want for Christmas? There's an algorithm for that

In the ever-changing world of retail, catalogs are fading while online shopping is taking over. That's why I'm going to the mall.
This turn-of-the-century electric streetcar was an open-air model used in the Twin Cities. Buses replaced streetcars in 1954.

Minnesota Moment: St. Paul and Minneapolis joined by electric streetcar

The first electric streetcar was so popular that the city vowed to forgo horses and cables and go electric. A little more than a year later, the first interurban electric line, down University Avenue, opened.

James Lileks: There's a remote chance we've lost control of technology

Would you like a modern tale of woe and self-inflicted stupidity?Consider the Smart Thermostat. I have one, and it always lights up when I enter…
.

Lileks: Have you finished your Christmas cards yet? Why not?

It's important to remember that nothing we are stressing about will matter or be remembered next year — or even by Super Bowl Sunday.
The wild lady slipper, left, was chosen as the first state flower, much to the dismay of the Tribune editorial board, which thought the pond lily, cen

Minnesota Moment: The wrong state flower

A group "empowered to elect for Minnesota a state flower" picked the wild lady slipper.
In 1984’s “Splash,” Daryl Hannah played a beautiful mermaid who imperils her life to visit Manhattan after falling in love with one of the city�

The word of the week: Mervert

It sounds a little fishy.
An Amazon Echo speaker.

Lileks: Proof that your Alexa-Echo thing records you

The Amazon voice-activated device is called an Echo, but everyone calls it Alexa. That’s who’s inside. Those of us who own one don’t think there’s…
Just stick a birch log in a planter and you've got an instant holiday.

Lileks: Fir trees for Christmas are so over. Here's the next thing

We need to rethink our Christmas tree paradigms.
The design that could have been the 3rd Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis.

Minnesota Monument: Minneapolis' unsung bridge

In 1912, plans for the 3rd Avenue Bridge were presented to the commission charged with picking a design.
Imagine a convivial experience with packaged food.

Lileks: New app lets you interrogate cereal icons

I was mass-deleting e-mailed press releases the other day when I found something that was actually relevant to my interests. To be honest, it sounded…
Tiger Roholt and his special guest, Stan Lee.

The time a 12-year-old kid brought Stan Lee to Minnesota

In 1978, a Minneapolis kid held a comic book convention at the Ridgedale shopping center, and his special guest was Stan Lee.
Birch, the rescue dog, waits for food.

Pets: When your dog growls at you

Despite his training, our rescue dog still goes a bit feral over certain foods.
On the fourth Thursday in November, we feast.

Lileks: Let's move Thanksgiving to another day

We have no idea when the first Thanksgiving really took place. It could have been a Monday in September.
The 1950 Gophers football team carried coach “Bernie” Bierman off the field after their lone win of the season. Bierman resigned earlier that week

Minnesota Moment: A movie moment for the Grey Eagle

University of Minnesota football coach "Bernie" Bierman stood on the sidelines for the last time Nov. 18, 1950.
Stan Lee, the Marvel Comics maestro and co-creator of Spider-Man, X-Men and Black Panther, was loved by fans.

Why we loved Stan Lee

A fan explains why we loved the Marvel Comic maverick.
Southwest Minnesota offers a patchwork of farm fields and rolling dirt roads.

Lileks: Lessons from getting down to Loose Minnesota

Last week I had the opportunity to drive to the southwest part of the state, to get out of the city, breathe some country air…
Feel better?

Lileks: Why you should put up your holiday lights now

A study nags you to get in the holiday mood ASAP. Your happiness depends on it.
Ditches across Minnesota filled with cars as the Armistice Day blizzard hit several states in 1940. Parts of Minnesota got more than 2 feet of snow.

Minnesota Moment: The deadly Armistice Day blizzard

The Star Journal's headline tells the story of the storm: "City, Northwest Buried by Worst November Storm; Death Toll Rises; Many Still Lost; Cold to Continue."
The midcentury skyscraper was severe but serene, unadorned and unconcerned with things like context or history. It was a machine for making money. If

How the shape of windows tells the history of Twin Cities architecture

Windows are more than just a means to bring in light and air; they're a way to read the style and technology of an era.
The Zombie Walk, a march consisting of a large group of people who dress zombies in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Nov. 2, 2018.

The word of the week: Zomboid

This word is a grave mistake
Coya Knutson took calls at her Oklee, Minn., home in 1954 after she was elected to Congress.

Minnesota Moment: Coya Knutson makes history

A schoolteacher became the first woman elected by Minnesotans to serve in the U.S. House.

Lileks: Neat stuff that doesn't work is cooler than old stuff that doesn't

A year ago, I replaced the old-style doorbell with a video device that pipes an image of the visitor right to my phone, showing me…
Don't forget to turn your clocks back.

Lileks: Everything (and more) about daylight saving time

Why not fall forward? And other questions.
.

Lileks: You think that winning the lottery won't change you? Ha!

That existential void isn't going to fill itself.
ValleyFair Spooky Trick or Treat at ValleyScare 2016 Fall Arts Preview pick

Lileks: How to ruin Halloween for everyone

Halloween might look like a child's holiday, a merry pretext for costumes and candy, but if you're a pedantic killjoy like me, it can be…
A sure sign of adulthood: You actually ask for a shot.

Lileks: Recalling the bad old days of flu shots

I wrote some breezy japery about the flu a few weeks ago, and some readers thought I was minimizing the need for a shot or…
.

Lileks: A look at Amazon's demise in the year 2079

A look to the future, when retail tastes shift again.
The Charles M. Babcock memorial in Elk River, the day before its dedication in 1947.

Minnesota Monument: Honoring the father of Minnesota's highway system

A monument to Charles M. Babcock was dedicated on his homesite in Elk River in 1947.

The word of the week: Tea

This 'tea' is a tart drink, indeed
Sliced American cheese no longer cuts the mustard with younger consumers.

Lileks: Does American cheese deserve to die?

The millennials' newest victim, according to Bloomberg News, is American cheese.
Some fall color along the North Shore.

Lileks: Are drab leaf colors really the most disappointing thing about fall?

Most of us have three phases: 1. Oh, the leaves are starting to turn. Pretty! 2. Hmm, they're all brown. 3. Well, they're gone. In a week it'll be dark at 4:54 p.m. Why do I live here?
It may be time to go through the junk drawer.

Lileks: Who is this dead Swede, and why is he so tidy?

They call it Swedish death cleaning: You approach your possessions as if you were charged with emptying out your house after you’ve died. No one…
More from Star Tribune