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: Remembering a WWII vet, an American original, a father

What a remarkable fellow. They made so many, once. There are so few, now.

Lileks: Rules for taking other people's property

Let's go over the rules for taking other people's stuff.If you want something gone, put it on the boulevard. It's universally understood that anything on…
Author Dave Barry with his dog Lucy.

Humorist Dave Barry shares life lessons he's learned from his dog Lucy

We talked with Dave Barry about barking at trash haulers, the improbability of cat parks, dogs in space and, of course, Lucy.
The Van Dusen company placed business card ads in the Saturday Evening Spectator, which promoted the city of Minneapolis.

An 1889 issue of the Saturday Evening Spectator shows a fanciful Minneapolis

A late 19th-century newspaper promoted Minneapolis by depicting it with fanciful buildings.
A lightning storm over Lake Harriet in south Minneapolis.

Lileks: The noisy joy of a summer thunderstorm

We were warned that this summer would be cooler and wetter. But then the thunderstorms come, and everything's forgiven.
The careless use of pyrotechnics has taken a toll over the years.

Why 'safe and sane' was once the July 4th mantra

No one in the past 50 years or so has likely wished you that, but that's something you would have heard a lot back in the day. Here's why.
That moment you hope your phone hasn’t broken.

The word of the week: Droptimism

It's not all it's cracked up to be.

Lileks: When passion for explosions cools down

For a few years, my dad ran a fireworks stand. This was North Dakota in the '60s, so you can imagine we had the good…

Lileks: It's time for us to face the future, literally

This being a newspaper, there should be a newsy reason I bring the following to your attention. And there is. Trust me!Granted, my definition of…
Folks get excited to try the new foods at the Minnesota State Fair.

Lileks: Minnesota State Fair foods that didn't make the cut

Here are some foods you that didn't make the fair's annual list of new foods we'll soon sample.
The Stairs in the Emery Hotel, formerly the Scandinavian-American Bank.

In praise of the iconic staircases of the Twin Cities

The grand staircase is disappearing from our skyscrapers and large civic buildings.

Lileks: Unyielding bike lock has his number

This might seem like a meaningful discussion of the nature of life, but it's really a metaphor for forgetting your bike lock combination.No, wait. That's…

Lileks: Praising dad jokes and their tellers

What's up? The sky! (Child rolls eyes.)

Lileks: Why is summer always out to bug us?

There are no insects outdoors in the wintertime. No leaping snow spiders, no white ants, no mosquitoes capable of drilling through a parka like a…

Lileks: Digging in the garden? Look out for buried wires

Probing the mysteries of the garden wire.
Beware of bogus software promos.

Word of the week: Scareware

This product isn't user-friendly.

Lileks: How to prank the kid coming home for summer

It's the time of year when kids come home from college and stay in the frozen museum you made of their old room. Child: "Gosh,…
Robert Napoleon Steele lost 19 years of his life to drugs and alcohol. Now clean, he runs a busy shoe shine shop in Minneapolis.

Mpls. shoe rehab owner can repair anything, including the broken man he once was

Meet the skyway's Lazarus of Leather.

Lileks: Should there be a law against walking with hot coffee?

Caffeine boost for the vitally important, or burn hazard for others?

Word of the week: Wifirate

It's a term worth stealing

Lileks: Do we miss the days when we could get lost?

The terror — or joy — of traversing dirt roads.

Lileks: Memorial Day a reminder of how not to forget

On this Memorial Day — as opposed to that other one, I guess — let us take a moment to figure out how people in…
Choose a blend of grass seed appropriate to your lawn's particular conditions, and spread at the recommended rate.

Lileks: Annual lawn despair season is upon us

The upside of being incompetent at basic life tasks: You can provide amusement for people who know what they’re doing. Growing grass, for example. How…
The Hamm Building in downtown St. Paul.

Going to Doors Open Minneapolis? Here's how to read the buildings you see

You can often tell at a glance whether a building is residential, commercial, civic or religious.

Lileks: Survey says Minnesota accent is one of the least sexy

The good news: People from "Lawnguyland" and "New Joisey" are below us.

Lileks: The fully empowered misery of online travel booking

Made summer travel plans yet? Bad news: Nine people are looking at that flight you want. Right now. They're probably talking about you, too.In the…
Stewart Van Cleve, the Digital Archives and Research Services Librarian at Augsburg University, held the Minneapolis promotional film discovered in th

See a long-lost promotional video that captures Minneapolis in 1968

The film also features a catchy song by the team that wrote "We're Going to Win, Twins."

Lileks: Another city tax? It's in the bag

The Minneapolis City Council is considering a nickel tax on plastic and paper bags. He's "torn."
A screenshot from the promotional YouTube video for Burger King's new 'Real Meals' campaign.

Lileks: Only a matter of time before the DGAF Meal was rolled out

Burger King's brilliant new idea: Unhappy Meals. That's not what they call them, but it's clear that's what they mean. It's a shot at McDonald's…
A terrier named Stubby became the most decorated dog of WW I. He was given a vest by the surviviors of a French town after it was liberated.

Sgt. Stubby was hailed as 'the most decorated dog' of the 20th century

A World War I hero dog and spy-chomper was awarded the rank of sergeant.

Lileks: License tab renewal gets the green light

How dare the service center staff be so efficient again?

Lileks: The journey of 36 cans from South America

Somewhere deep in the Amazon (the rain forest, not the warehouse), a worker picked a delicious guarana berry, and put it in a basket.He may…
The Minneapolis skyline as seen from downtown St. Paul.

Lileks: We're not really twins: It's time to claim 'the Cities' as our nickname

"Twin Cities" is banal and inaccurate. We're more like conjoined nephews. And Minneapple is best left in the '80s.
A new Minnesota law restricts drivers to hands-free or voice-activated cellphone technology, effective Aug. 1. One option is to use a Bluetooth earpie

Tips for Minnesota drivers on new 'hands-free' cellphone law

"One-touch functions" will still be allowed if the phone is accessed without holding it, typing or scrolling. Here are some options.

Lileks: What's a little poison if your bottled water tastes good?

I like to look on the positive side, so let me reassure you that there's no evidence your bottled water has cyanide.Arsenic? Well ... that's…
The White Castle building on Lyndale Avenue S. has housed many businesses. Because its historically significant, no signs can be fixed to it.

What's the story behind the marooned Minneapolis White Castle?

It's not just any White Castle. It's No. 8. And it's historic.
If parking gets tight, it’s a sign of civic success

Lileks: It takes street smarts to deal with Minneapolis parking fee increase

Two hours is not enough.
Open the door, please.

A change in routine raises the question: Are dogs more adaptable than their owners?

A windstorm, a broken door and wet dog food: James Lileks tries to teach Birch a new routine, and gets schooled.
April snow dressed a winter scene, covering the early drab of spring. But we’re sn’over it now.

Word of the week: Snostalgia

It's snow buddy's business.

Lileks: Odd night at the drugstore

If you put NyQuil, Pepto-Bismol and a tube of pain cream down on the drugstore counter, and it's 9:45 on a Friday night, you know…

Lileks: With 5G, now we can waste our time even faster

The new 5G phone network will change everything.
The Mary Tyler Moore statue is decorated for the Final Four outside the Tip-Off Tailgate on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis.

Lileks: Why does company always come when we're at our worst?

We hope everyone who came for the Final Four has had a nice time. It’s probably too much to expect thank-you notes, but that would…

Lileks: Bothered by airplane noise? Try writing a letter

There are planes? Landing? At the airport?
Finding an empty cake stand in Minnesota is maybe just as quirky as St. Louis-style bagel cutting.

Lileks: Everyone's up in arms over St. Louis-style bagels. What's Minnesota's quirk?

You need to know about St. Louis-style bagel cutting, so you can be outraged. What’s that, you say? You’ve reached Peak Outrage? You’ve been living…
The Great Northern Depot in Minneapolis, located on Hennepin Avenue near the Mississippi River.

Minneapolis' rebuilt Union Depot was shining example of modernism – for 1914

Hennepin Avenue, near the Mississippi River. The Great Northern Depot stood at the edge of downtown by the river, in the Bridge Square area. Judging…

Lileks: Don't you dare move the eggs kittywhompus

Change is good, and also we hate it.
Kraft cheese with the suspect tagline "Family greatly."

Lileks: The cheesiest ad slogan of 2019

Everyone has a pet peeve about certain words and phrases. I have many, including "pet peeve." It sounds like an adorable little furry ball that…
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.
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