Staff Directory 10645306

James Lileks

Columnist | Variety
phone: 612-673-7858
James Lileks writes a Variety column.
Recent content from James Lileks

The word of the week: Schneid

Our winner is a loser
A look at failed Minnesota utopias – and one that worked

A look at failed Minnesota utopias – and one that worked

A brief history of attempts to build the perfect city.

LILEKS: You do not have to have an Elf on a Shelf

Just because it’s a tradition doesn’t mean you have to do it again, you know. We have some tree ornaments I don’t really like, but…
Lileks: Only an idiot could think cold weather makes us closed-minded jerks

Lileks: Only an idiot could think cold weather makes us closed-minded jerks

Warm climes produce nicer people, a study says. Fine, if you like that kind of thing.

Word of the week: Furmily

All in the family
Victorian Christmas? Bah, humbug! Ideal holiday image is of Minneapolis' Nicollet Mall in the 1950s

Victorian Christmas? Bah, humbug! Ideal holiday image is of Minneapolis' Nicollet Mall in the 1950s

We should be nostalgic for the festive downtowns of the 1950s, not something out of a Dickens novel.

James Lileks: His new tradition is making up traditions

Every family has its own traditions for the holidays, and outsiders might find them strange. “We’ve knitted the annual sweater for the radiator — time…
Lileks: With holiday lights, there are 3 types of decorators

Lileks: With holiday lights, there are 3 types of decorators

It's time for the annual act of brightening the nights.
Lileks: Why some adults can't let go of Pokémon

Lileks: Why some adults can't let go of Pokémon

Imagine if you could combine politics, religion, sports, world history and zoology into one thing: it would be Pokémon.
Lileks: Keeping tabs on license-bureau waits

Lileks: Keeping tabs on license-bureau waits

Judging from the news, the state's licensing system has had some kinks. Here's what happened at the service center.

Lileks: Turning over an old leaf for the holiday

Like many households, we have a division of labor for Thanksgiving duties. I put the leaf in the table; my wife roasts the turkey. So…

When you're dreaming of Tater Tot stuffing, you know it's November

How Minnesotan is this?

Word of the week: Selfiegenic

Are you picture-perfect?
The famed Little Wagon was a Mpls. bar so popular it survived a teardown

The famed Little Wagon was a Mpls. bar so popular it survived a teardown

Step back in time to see a famous Minneapolis street corner that looks nothing like today.
Is an emoji worth a thousand words?

Is an emoji worth a thousand words?

Emojis are poor substitutes for words, but they are fast becoming our visual vocabulary.
Lileks: Some simple, easy, useless tips for winterizing

Lileks: Some simple, easy, useless tips for winterizing

Flurries were forecast the other day, and we all had the same question: Will they accumulate? We can take a few flakes, but when they…
Review: 'Monograph,' by Chris Ware

Review: 'Monograph,' by Chris Ware

NONFICTION: Cartoonist Chris Ware's "Monograph" is a collection of works without parallel in modern storytelling and graphic design.
Lileks: Let's belt out some Thanksgiving tunes

Lileks: Let's belt out some Thanksgiving tunes

It's time to get in the mood for turkey.

Word of the week: The hard sell

Do you have tradigital skills?
Downtown Mpls. malls fail; here's why the Dayton's project might succeed

Downtown Mpls. malls fail; here's why the Dayton's project might succeed

Minneapolis has a checkered history with shopping arcades. Will the new Dayton's be any different?

Lileks: Here's a big batch of nonsense about the flu

It’s cold-and-flu season, so here are some answers to questions everyone has. Q: How do I avoid getting the flu? A: Get a…
'He didn't mean to leave us': Lileks says goodbye to his family's beloved dog

'He didn't mean to leave us': Lileks says goodbye to his family's beloved dog

When Scout wasn't waiting for a hunt, he loved to play-fight. Most of all he loved to run. He always came back. Until he didn't.
Lileks: Don't even think of getting rid of the 'fall back' hour

Lileks: Don't even think of getting rid of the 'fall back' hour

Instead of complaining, enjoy this extra-long day.

Word of the week: A knee-jerk reaction?

Fear of kneeling
Think you're scare-savvy? Prove it with this Halloween quiz

Think you're scare-savvy? Prove it with this Halloween quiz

How well do you know your Halloween trivia? Are you willing to find out? Then give our Halloween quiz a try. We cover everything from…

Lileks: Were you ever scared on Halloween?

Whenever people say, “We just don’t get many kids for Halloween anymore,” it sounds as if they think no one’s making kids these days. How…
Lileks: All adults want from trick-or-treaters are two little words

Lileks: All adults want from trick-or-treaters are two little words

OK, Batman, and Ilsa, what do you say?

Word of the week: Agreeance

Can we all agree on this?

Lileks: Phone scammers have new dirty tricks

The telemarketing calls had stopped. No more worried messages from Jessica at Card Services. There were several possible reasons: 1. The FCC had finally done…
Lileks: How badly do we want the new Amazon headquarters?

Lileks: How badly do we want the new Amazon headquarters?

You wish our obvious advantages were enough. But no, we have to compete with cities like Newark.
How to — and how not to — update old buildings in downtown Minneapolis

How to — and how not to — update old buildings in downtown Minneapolis

Our take on three redesigned spaces in downtown Minneapolis.

Lileks: When it comes to the Super Bowl weekend, St. Paul has given up

No Ice Palace in St. Paul? We can fix that. For cheap. There’s a simple solution at the end of this column. If no one…
Lileks: No one cares about your lousy commute

Lileks: No one cares about your lousy commute

It's like they scheduled all these projects at once, right? You can't get anywhere.
Throwback: Gladstone Garden, 1930s Minneapolis

Throwback: Gladstone Garden, 1930s Minneapolis

These elegant swells are enjoying a tipple at “Upper Nicollet’s Oldest Cafe,” as the inside of the matchbook says. “Known far and wide as the…
Lileks: Is it rude to remind people to obey law?

Lileks: Is it rude to remind people to obey law?

No good deed goes unflipped.
Why are some new Twin Cities apartment building names so pretentious?

Why are some new Twin Cities apartment building names so pretentious?

Yes, the names of new apartment buildings are pretentious. But they've always been so.

Lileks: He has an incurable case of puppy love

There were three cages at the Humane Society in the overflow dog area. I was drawn to one strange little beast, a breed I'd never…
Lileks: Chew on these suggestions for new apples

Lileks: Chew on these suggestions for new apples

This is no time to fall behind in apple innovation.
Fall in Minnesota is a sad story, but it's so beautifully written

Fall in Minnesota is a sad story, but it's so beautifully written

It's the same bittersweet story every year. And we love it, even though we know the plot.
Lileks: The miserable life of a cereal mascot

Lileks: The miserable life of a cereal mascot

Unless you've been hanging on the news 24/7, you may have missed this one: General Mills has agreed to scrap the muted colors of Trix…
Lileks: More music in more stores? Hurrah!

Lileks: More music in more stores? Hurrah!

Shopping in silence isn't an option anymore.
This corner of Nicollet Av. is almost unrecognizable in vintage 1960 photos

This corner of Nicollet Av. is almost unrecognizable in vintage 1960 photos

From the buildings to the billboards, see how this section of downtown Minneapolis has changed dramatically over the years. Without any hints, it's almost impossible for a modern resident to place this block.

LILEKS: Your kitchen sponge is deadly; the fridge is even worse

Depending on the article and the quantity of alarmism the author wanted to inject, the headline either said, "Kitchen sponges have lots of bacteria" or…
Lileks: What happens when you go to the State Fair two weeks too late?

Lileks: What happens when you go to the State Fair two weeks too late?

A trip to the empty fairgrounds reveals the detritus of our last fling with summer.

The sea is a desert when it comes to internet access

If there's an annual competition for the most out-of-touch, tone-deaf, opening sentence in newspapers this week, I think I'm a shoo-in: I would like to…
Then and now: Arthur Murray danced where Northstar building now stands

Then and now: Arthur Murray danced where Northstar building now stands

Vintage photos from 1960 show a downtown street corner totally transformed.
Lileks: What do we want? Air. How do we want it? Free

Lileks: What do we want? Air. How do we want it? Free

Charging to fill a tire drives him up the wall (or at least up the street).

Lileks: Why you hate your home computer's printer

We all hate our printers, right? They're frustrating, clattering things that manage to swallow every other sheet in their complicated innards, and they come with…
Lileks: Haven't been to the fair? Here's what you're missing

Lileks: Haven't been to the fair? Here's what you're missing

If you haven't been, because you figured it was the same as it was last year, you're so, so very wrong.
We can improve the alleys in the Twin Cities, but only if we really want to

We can improve the alleys in the Twin Cities, but only if we really want to

We could improve city alleys by turning them into shared green spaces — or just by cleaning them up.
Lileks: The last first day of school is finale for a family tradition

Lileks: The last first day of school is finale for a family tradition

One more school picture, and an era comes to an end.

Lileks: All your eclipse questions answered, uselessly

It's the big Eclipse Day, and no doubt you have some questions that no one else has answered to your satisfaction. I'll do my best.Q:…
Lileks: Downtown Improvement worker really improved his day

Lileks: Downtown Improvement worker really improved his day

A lost dog and lost keys have provided some interesting interactions with public officials.

LILEKS: How a loose dog makes you wonder about bank cameras

It was a hardy-har bright story for your morning news: I-94 shut down! There's a dog on the highway! They had footage of the dog…
Lileks: He lost his dog, but found a kind soul

Lileks: He lost his dog, but found a kind soul

A stranger appears at the edge of the Mississippi.

LILEKS: How video doorbells help us make nicer lies

Because I’m always eager to fill up the yawning void of existential dread with a new gadget, I got one of those video doorbells. The…
Lileks: The glorious nocturnal noise of summer

Lileks: The glorious nocturnal noise of summer

A symphony of sound sets the season apart.

James Lileks: Don't get hung up on bashing smartphones

The picture was ordinary, stark and depressing: A subway car, packed with passengers, and everyone's head was bent down, staring at the objects in their…
Lileks: How to cram a month of Minnesota summer into a day

Lileks: How to cram a month of Minnesota summer into a day

Don't abandon all your summertime clichés yet.

Lileks: The key to happiness? Not losing your keys

Last Saturday I stood in a store looking at a thin white plastic square that sings a song when you press a button on your…
Lileks: When will stores learn to stop selling school supplies in July?

Lileks: When will stores learn to stop selling school supplies in July?

Retailers, please let us savor what's left of summer.
Then and now: Small shops ruled City Center block on 1960s Hennepin Avenue

Then and now: Small shops ruled City Center block on 1960s Hennepin Avenue

From the Gopher Theatre to a giant Hamm's billboard, the street corner across from Block E was a bastion of old, storied businesses in 1960.
Lileks: Call centers challenge our resolve to be nice

Lileks: Call centers challenge our resolve to be nice

It is not my intention to be the nation's foremost chronicler of customer-support phone-call tales, but things break. Items fail to work. Calls must be…
Lileks: For real drama, nothing can beat a thunderstorm

Lileks: For real drama, nothing can beat a thunderstorm

We don't have storms anymore. We have "periods of rain" or "life-extinguishing weather pain horror," with nothing in between.
9 things you didn't know about Twin Cities streetcars

9 things you didn't know about Twin Cities streetcars

Perhaps you have a romantic notion of quaint streetcars clattering along, carrying office workers and shoppers. If you'd been around when they stopped running in the Twin Cities in the 1950s, you would have been in the minority.

Lileks: Sometimes you need a philanthropic Door Whisperer

Public service announcement No. 1: Make sure all the car's doors are shut before you back out of the garage. Public service announcement No. 2:…
Block-by-block photo survey in 1960 shows Minneapolis' thriving retail scene

Block-by-block photo survey in 1960 shows Minneapolis' thriving retail scene

A 1960 photo survey by the Star and Tribune of the city block where City Center now stands left a remarkable account of what Minneapolis looked like at a time when the urban core was aging, but still vital.
Lileks: 4 conversations you'll have about Minnesota while visiting NYC

Lileks: 4 conversations you'll have about Minnesota while visiting NYC

New Yorkers know Minnesota is superior, and they hate us for it.
Lileks: Yes, these are contentious times, but we fly the same flag

Lileks: Yes, these are contentious times, but we fly the same flag

A bright bloom in the night sky, a burger on the grill: It's the 4th.
Lileks: How to best enjoy fireworks? By staring at your phone, of course!

Lileks: How to best enjoy fireworks? By staring at your phone, of course!

This year, try watching the fireworks instead of photographing them.

Lileks: What's the proper punishment for credit card crooks?

It was a nice little French cafe in Washington, D.C., chic and sophisticated. Why, look — it's an intellectual reading a book. You thought he…
Twin Cities throwback: Syndicate Block was the pride of Minneapolis in 1910s

Twin Cities throwback: Syndicate Block was the pride of Minneapolis in 1910s

When the Syndicate Block opened in 1883 it was the pride of downtown Minneapolis.
Lileks: Ever wonder which new fair foods don't make the list?

Lileks: Ever wonder which new fair foods don't make the list?

How can you really enjoy the Mighty Midway without a bucket of carp noses?
The Mini-Apple grapple: A look at Twin Cities rasslin' during the 1980s

The Mini-Apple grapple: A look at Twin Cities rasslin' during the 1980s

A photo exhibit provides a ringside view of Baron Von Raschke, Sgt. Slaughter and more.
Then and now: See how 8th and Hennepin has changed since 1960

Then and now: See how 8th and Hennepin has changed since 1960

A brief history of 8th and Hennepin told through old-school photographs.
Read our comment standards

StarTribune.com welcomes and encourages readers to comment and engage in substantive, mutually respectful exchanges over news topics. Commenters must follow our Terms of Use.

  1. Keep it civil and stay on topic.
  2. No profanity, vulgarity, racial slurs or personal attacks.
  3. Comments with web links are not permitted.
  4. Comments that violate the above will be removed. Repeat violators may lose their commenting privileges on StarTribune.com.

Comments will be reviewed before being published.

More from Star Tribune