Staff Directory 10645306

James Lileks

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

James Lileks: Zero-star reviews deserve zero stars

The lawn sprinkler had a lifetime guarantee. Yours, or its, that's the question.If it ceases to work, it's dead, and its lifetime is over. When…

Lileks: Let's play Flu Shot Roulette yet again

Roll up your sleeve: It's questionably effective flu shot season again.
Horace Greeley praised Minnesota’s weather during his stop in 1871.

Minnesota Moment: When Greeley came to the fair – the other fair

In addition to talking about crops, the author, newspaper editor, politician and all-around public intellectual also praised Minnesota's weather.
Is a thief lurking? (Dreamstime)

Lileks: Porch theft is rampant in Minneapolis! Or is it?

Minneapolis is No. 3 in packages stolen from the porch, according to We are possibly No. 4 in purloined patches, according to, but…
A pair of ruby slippers once worn by actress Judy Garland in the “The Wizard of Oz” are displayed at a news conference Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018, at

Lileks: How the Ruby Red Slipper Case really unfolded

You could say the crook slippered up

Lileks: Grubby little fiends

The other day I was reading the news on my phone, and accidentally clicked on an ad. My screen was taken over by a picture…
The fair has no car traffic, yet there are streets and sidewalks.

Why the Minnesota State Fair could be a template for our future cities

We've got a model of the New Urbanism design movement right here in the Twin Cities: It's called the Minnesota State Fair.
The Mighty Midway at the Minnesota State Fair.

Lileks: What will the State Fair be like in half a century?

It's one thing we don't want to change.

Lileks: Why old TV was bad

My wife made a reference to the "summer TV season" the other day, and I had to check to see if we hadn't time-traveled back…
It's State Fair time again.

Lileks: Let's enjoy some meaningless State Fair stats

Some things about the fair you might not know.

Lileks: Excuse us while we gripe about our neighbors' complaints

“For immediate release,” said the public relations e-mail. That was three weeks ago. I like to let them know who’s boss. Now that a decent…
Brookstone, the ubiquitous seller of cool but largely unneeded things, is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Lileks: It's (mostly) my fault Brookstone stores are closing

Retail's secret weapon: People
Minnesota-style pizza truly is museum-worthy.

Lileks: Why the new Pizza Museum should be in Minnesota

Minnesota is true pizza pioneer.
“Titanic,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet is a “truvie.” Spoiler alert: It sinks.

Word of the week: Truvie

To tell the truth (cinematically)
Canny entrepreneurs are already selling permanent straws.

Lileks: How to tell if your straw is a forgery

Straws probably will be banned before they're relegated to Designated Sipping Areas. And then what? How will you get fluids from cup to maw? Don't worry. Canny entrepreneurs are already selling permanent straws.
Some years Target hangs a giant yellow pencil over the front of the store.

Lileks: Back to school talk already? Stop it

They're already out of everything!
Ten-Forward vodka is inspired by "Star Trek."

Drink up, Trekkies – this vodka is for you

New line of booze was inspired by the hit sci-fi TV series and includes a taste of space.
Chicken Soupe au Pistou with Zucchini Noodles.

Word of the week: Zoodles

It's what you make if you have oodles of zucchini and you're tired of zucchini bread.

Lileks: But what do they do to the cows? What?

Drove back and forth to Fargo this week. Split time between Hwy. 10, the miniseries, and I-94, the three-hour movie. Here is a report.1. There…

Lileks: 10-4, good buddy, we got Secret Smokey and 'bear meat'

State Patrol paranoia lightens a lead foot on I-94.
There’s a trick for not running out of propane.

Lileks: So the propane hose is hissing? I'll just light it anyway

Altogether now, men, what's your first instinct? We are daredevils who scoff at danger.
The Minnesota IDs has a new security feature: If you hold the license up to the light, a walleye is visible.

Lileks: Is that a new Minnesota driver's license or a fishing permit?

New licenses aren't Real ID, but they do have a walleye.

Lileks: You can check in anytime you want, but you can never log out

Marriott hotels has announced that it will use facial recognition to check in guests in some Chinese hotels. It'll happen here, eventually. As much as…
Wise Acre Eatery, 5401 Nicollet Av. S., Minneapolis, is one of two former gas stations at that intersection converted to other uses.

How a corner gas station can make a Twin Cities neighborhood vibrant

Corner gas stations can invite visitors to linger, and hopefully enjoy an urban neighborhood.
Three Bird scooters at 9th and Hennepin in downtown Minneapolis.

Lileks: What it was like to ride a scooter in downtown Minneapolis

Electric scooters look fun, fancy-free and speedy. Are they fun? Yes. Useful? Well. ...

Lileks: Camp is for snipes, slivers and sunburn

There were dozens of sleeping bags, soft and bulging like caterpillar pupae. There was a neat line of tiny suitcases — pink, with ponies; black,…
The 1917 Minneapolis city plan placed a plaza on 4th Street. This view looks east.

Minneapolis once had a chance to be the Paris of the Plains

If the city had adopted a 1917 plan, it would have looked like the City of Light, with diagonal boulevards and roundabouts.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

National Portrait Gallery is one of Washington, D.C.'s best.

The National Portrait Gallery's unsung collection includes outsider art, presidential portraits and other gems.

Lileks: In the war against mosquitoes, we always lose

Nothing ever works. They've got us outnumbered. We are here to be eaten.
Not all text messages are on point, much less on target.

Word of the week: Mismessaged

Get the message?
Hardware store.

Lileks: Study says you only go to 25 places. Really? That many?

According to a new study, people visit exactly 25 places over and over again. According to another study, lazy newspaper columnists bloviate about any “study”…
Oreos come in every conceivable flavor, including State Fair.

Lileks: Oreo's new 'State Fair' flavor neglects to put Minnesota on the box

Oreos are now available in State Fair flavor. But is it the taste of the Minnesota State Fair or some wannabe?

Lileks: A reader's guide to summer book clichés

It's summer reading time, we're told. Apparently people who read nothing more substantial than the back of the cereal box now go to the beach…
Must the firework be purchased in another state, or through nefarious means? It is not legal.

Lileks: A handy guide to legal vs. illegal fireworks

Hint: If it's fun, it's illegal.
The old Forum Cafeteria.

An ode to the Forum, a lost Art Deco masterpiece from 1930s Minneapolis

It’s not the food people remember. It’s the decor. The Forum was a bright Art Deco masterpiece, opening in 1930 to give the city what…
Construction continued along 5th Avenue S. during the evening rush hour Friday.

Lileks: Scenes from the Ken Burns doc on 35W reconstruction

  Scenes from Ken Burns’ next epic documentary, “Homeward Bound: An account of Road Construction in Minneapolis.” (Bittersweet fiddle music. Voice-over actor reads a letter.)…
Homewood Suites by Hilton is rising at 66th Street and York Avenue S.

How to fix ugly suburban intersections in the Twin Cities

By adapting modern design trends, an intersection near Southdale gets a much needed update.
A raccoon captured attention (and hearts) in a skyscraper escapade in downtown St. Paul.

Lileks: It's Father's Day, and the St. Paul raccoon is so grounded

Don't make me come up there, kids.
It's getting more difficult for travelers to compare the cost of a flight on different carriers.

Lileks: $97 to Paris, or, lies the internet tells us

Taking a flight can be full of misery and anxiety; why shouldn't the experience of booking one be, too?
Kent Whitworth, the new CEO of the Minnesota Historical Society, remembers visiting Split Rock Lighthouse as a child.

New CEO of Minn. Historical Society looks to the future: 'We're in the experience business'

Maximizing inclusion and experience is at the top of Kent Whitworth's to-do list.

Lileks: Should we feel a twinge of guilt when we wipe out the ants?

Sorry, ants, you blew it by moving into this yard.

Lileks: You'll never forget when the bus is due

Daughter will be graduated from high school this week, and I cannot tell you how conflicted I am about this. Some say "will be graduating"…
From the June 1, 1934, Minneapolis Star: Fern Greenberg, left, and Sadie Pilch fried eggs on the sidewalk on 5th St. between 2nd and 3rd Avs. N. The e

Lileks: Think last weekend was hot? Try sweating through the 1934 'drouth'

Reading the papers, you realize how much things have changed for the better.

Lileks: Why June bugs are nature's most annoying insects

The other night, I sat outside with a nice cool beverage and started to yell at my wife. Nothing bad; we just live under the…
The precursor to audiobooks for dogs: Francis Barraud’s 1895 painting of Nipper looking into an Edison Bell cylinder phonograph.

Audiobooks for your pup could be the new dog whisperer

Audiobooks for dogs are either the next best thing for Fido or downright silly.

Lileks: Taunted by lawn's cursed bare spot

How we long to see the green, green grass of home.

Lileks: Want to watch TV? The chances are remote

In every family there are two people: one who wants to watch TV, and one who knows how all the remotes work. Once a week…
Buddy Banco was the mascot for Northwestern Bank in the 1970s.

Lileks: Remembering Minnesota's other favorite mascot bear

Northwestern Bank wanted to be your Buddy.
Twin Cities comedians record a podcast.

Lileks: Not keeping up with podcasts is the new 'not keeping up with Netflix'

That sounds fun, but who has time for all these podcasts?
Despite its deadly reputation, the Washington Avenue viaduct wasn’t demolished until 1984.

Most hated bridge in Minneapolis was an ugly, deadly road hazard

A brief history of "Old Man Viaduct," which lasted a century.
It’s time to treat mom.

Lileks: Who's the world's greatest mom? There can be only one

Another mug might not be the best gift.
Between things like their rampant use of smartphones and their housing preferences, millennials have become targets for criticism from older generatio

Lileks: Let's stop worrying about the millennials

Let's check the internet to see what Today's Youth have ruined.
Get ready for more construction on Interstate 35W south of downtown Minneapolis.

Lileks: Don't even think about driving in the Twin Cities this summer

Some constructive criticism of road construction season.
A textident waiting to happen: A man looks at his phone while driving.

Word of the week: Textident

Putting a dent in texting.
A man checked his smartphone while sitting on an American flag bench.

Lileks: How long can you survive without your phone?

My wife thought my phone was hers and popped it in her purse before going to bed. I couldn't find it. She took my phone to work, and I was without a phone for an entire day.
Wild turkeys have found their way downtown. ORG XMIT: RPCB101

Lileks: Upon seeing a wild downtown turkey, these thoughts will shoot into your head

The bird was the word.

Lileks: What we get out of retail consolidation (Hint: zip)

In the latest step toward a retail environment with two stores — Amazon and Tar-Mart — we learn that Herberger’s is closing. It’s owned by…
The cabin of an early Boeing 747.

Lileks: Could this possibly be the true 'golden age' of air travel?

Memories aren't grounded.

Lileks: With spring comes birds – and vermin

There was a raccoon the size of a beer keg up in the tree. Wise to the ways of nature as I am, I figured…
The downtown Minneapolis post office, photographed from the Hennepin Avenue Bridge in 2004, was designed to serve as a wall between the city and the g

What should be done with Minneapolis' downtown post office site?

Plans to repurpose the downtown Minneapolis post office go against what the building was designed to do.

Lileks: Keeping tabs on vehicle registration 'computer problems'

You could claim MNLARS is the problem, but what is the problem with MNLARS?

Lileks: Can you buy a something online without committing to a lifetime of e-mail annoyance?

When you see "SKIP AD" on YouTube, you usually click because you're impatient for free entertainment and are prone to think: "Tough luck, suckers trying…
Ah, April snow showers.

Lileks: Old Man Winter, we need to talk

You've outstayed your welcome. Just go, already.
"The Simpsons" has officially contributed to the language. Ay, caramba.

The word of the week: Embiggen

Newly recognized 'Simpsons' word is a really big deal

Lileks: Four reasons to skip the interstate

Sure, it's slower; that's the whole point.
It’s OK. It’s just weather.

Lileks: New Yorkers used to be better at this snobbery thing

We eat Juicy Lucys? Oh, snap.
Lileks: 3 ways to fix that piece of junk you'll buy again

Lileks: 3 ways to fix that piece of junk you'll buy again

I had a Keurig coffee machine, and it broke. I replaced with a Hamilton Beach machine that used K-Cups, and it made coffee that tasted…
Lileks: the meaning of life? The last line on the eye chart

Lileks: the meaning of life? The last line on the eye chart

IF YOU CAN READ THIS, the bumper sticker said, YOU'RE TOO CLOSE. Or perhaps it was: IF YOE CAN FEEB THIS YOU'RE LOO CLOZ3. I…
Keegan’s Irish Pub in Minneapolis.

Irish pubs helped revolutionize the look of Twin Cities bars

Irish pubs played a part in making bars less secretive and warmer, welcoming and connected.
Maybe — just maybe — dumping some more asphalt in the same holes every year isn’t a long-term solution.

Lileks: Let's all rant about potholes together

We fix bad asphalt with more asphalt that goes bad.
New York Times

Lileks: No need to panic over digital assistants – much

Alexa, please don't hurt me.
Becca Kufrin and Arie Luyendyk Jr. of "The Bachelor."

Lileks: Here's how to punish that toxic 'Bachelor'

The cad dared to hurt a model Minnesotan. It's time to get passive-aggressive.

The word of the week: Recognore

Do I know you?

Lileks: In Minnesota, gas comes to you!

According to this fine newspaper, there's a new company in town that will bring gas to your house and fill up your car. While I…
The1800’s Paddle Wheel replica “Pearl of the River” cruises the shore of Lake Pepin on a early October evening.

Lileks: How could Minnesota have lost 'best state' award to Iowa?

We know that Iowa can't hold a candle to us.
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