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: 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…
Was Franken Berry cobbled together from the corpses of strawberries?

Lileks: Who's to blame for long Halloween season? Ask Franken Berry

Perhaps we've become tired of being tired of pumpkin spice.
When Southdale opened in 1956 — with Dayton’s and Donaldsons as its anchors — there wasn’t much else around it.

Minnesota Moment: Southdale, our first 'nation's biggest mall'

Visionary architect Victor Gruen saw the enclosed shopping center as an antidote to the Twin Cities area's car-centric development.

Lileks: When China thinks you're in the market for panic bars

Once a week, I am reminded that someone in China thinks I am an industrial-supply executive. Here's the latest e-mail:Dears,The is Vepin from Tybonder Co.,…
Pedestrians in downtown Minneapolis are guided or cautioned by a cacophony of disembodied voices.

Why Twin Cities walk signals and garage alerts should have Minnesota accents

Talking walk signals and parking garage alerts add to the urban cacophony. At least they could speak Minnesotan.
Whatever temperature you pick, your spouse is likely to disagree.

Lileks: Have you turned on the heat yet?

Firing up the furnace is a rite of autumn.
A 1910 automobile ad in the Minneapolis Tribune.

Minnesota Moment: Brave motorists head for far-off South Dakota in 1910

At the time, drivers faced potholes, mud, meandering paths and horses headed in the opposite direction.
There’s a generational disinterest in mail.

Lileks: Are millennials about to stamp out the mail?

All post offices should be closed. Except for the one closest to my house. For that matter, can we be finished with daily mail deliveries?…
Calhoun Square in Uptown.

Lileks: Is South Uptown really a better name for CARAG?

If you call yourself Uptown, you have to deal with the eternal complaint that "Uptown is so over."
The Northwestern Bell Tower in 1939.

Minnesota Moment: Northwestern Bell tower rises during Depression

Northwestern Bell Phone Co. announced plans for an enormous new tower next to City Hall in Minneapolis, just before the stock market crash.

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!
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