Staff Directory 10645306

James Lileks

Columnist | Variety
phone: 612-673-7858
James Lileks writes a Variety column.
Recent content from James Lileks
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: 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.
Then and now: Popular Nicollet Mall street corner changed drastically since 1960

Then and now: Popular Nicollet Mall street corner changed drastically since 1960

Vintage photos show the corner of 6th and Nicollet in all its old-school glory.
Then and now: Mpls. corner goes from Egyptian vibes to much-admired skyscraper

Then and now: Mpls. corner goes from Egyptian vibes to much-admired skyscraper

Vintage photos show how "King Tut mania" influenced an early downtown Minneapolis building before it made way for a favorite skyscraper.

Lileks: The six phases of dealing with a power outage. "Acceptance" is not one of them

It's not quite accurate to say we lost power in last week's harsh storm. It's not like I couldn't find it. "Hey, who had the…
Watch this space: An appreciation for Mpls. billboards of yore

Watch this space: An appreciation for Mpls. billboards of yore

Now that billboards have gone high-tech, it's time to appreciate what they used to add to the city of Minneapolis. Yes, add.
Lileks: If you could talk to your young self about your dad, what would you say?

Lileks: If you could talk to your young self about your dad, what would you say?

Thanks, Dad. I got your number. Don't ever change it.

Lileks: School in June is a cruel idea

Some schools are still in session. The second week of June, and there's school. This can be designed only by someone who is still singing…
Lileks: Bonjour et bonne chance: Here's what to tell French visitors to Minneapolis

Lileks: Bonjour et bonne chance: Here's what to tell French visitors to Minneapolis

How to lie about Minneapolis.
Before and after: A forgotten downtown Minneapolis movie marquee

Before and after: A forgotten downtown Minneapolis movie marquee

Do you remember the Grand? Vintage photos -- and a veteran projectionist -- provide clues to the old theater's history.
Former St. Paul cop turns her farm into sanctuary for abused animals

Former St. Paul cop turns her farm into sanctuary for abused animals

By helping abused animals, rescuer found her own form of healing.

Lileks: When the coffee machine breaks, life ceases to be worth living

There is no column this week. Coffee's to blame — or the lack of it.To be honest, I was actually upbeat when the coffee machine…
Lileks: What poisons (and memories) lurk in a humble backyard shed?

Lileks: What poisons (and memories) lurk in a humble backyard shed?

A spring cleaning unearths poisons and memories. But mostly poisons.
Read about real life in Minnesota since 1867 in the new Star Tribune archive

Read about real life in Minnesota since 1867 in the new Star Tribune archive

Forget microfilm. Here's how to search the Star Tribune's comprehensive new digital archive.
Lileks: Some Minnesotans have our own version of cabin fever

Lileks: Some Minnesotans have our own version of cabin fever

Forty million Americans will drive 50 miles or more on Memorial Day weekend. Or 50 people will drive 40 million miles. No, it’s the first…
'Free' grocery store samples come at a cost — lies and guilt

'Free' grocery store samples come at a cost — lies and guilt

Who else fibs about buying that cheese later?
LILEKS: Explosive Oreos are ruining summer

LILEKS: Explosive Oreos are ruining summer

FIREWORK OREOS, said the package. It was red, white and blue, because it's ... May. The package also bragged that this was a "Limited Edition,"…
Lileks: A man's guide to faking your Propane IQ

Lileks: A man's guide to faking your Propane IQ

The most important step in outdoor cooking is faking your gas canister IQ.
Time and temp on Twin Cities buildings are now a thing of the past

Time and temp on Twin Cities buildings are now a thing of the past

Clocks on city halls, banks and stores once tolled the hours in public. Now time has become strictly personal.

Lileks: TV for your dog is like an iPhone for your canary

We dream of figuring out a way to get the networks for nothing. It's possible, but it's a pain.
Lileks: When pondering your Mother's Day gift, don't forget the best one

Lileks: When pondering your Mother's Day gift, don't forget the best one

Sure, cards and candy are nice, but they only go so far.

LILEKS: Complain about their product, and it's nuts to you. Literally.

Sometimes a package says "New look! Same great taste!" because people would start to hyperventilate if they saw a different typeface, and think "They've added…
Before they were dives, Twin Cities apartment hotels were posh, had room service

Before they were dives, Twin Cities apartment hotels were posh, had room service

Before apartment buildings sprang up by the hundreds, there was a different kind of multifamily housing.
Lileks: Forget talking to plants. How about screaming at lawns?

Lileks: Forget talking to plants. How about screaming at lawns?

Talking to plants doesn't work. But maybe threats will.
The power of paper: How the humble notebook became trendy again

The power of paper: How the humble notebook became trendy again

For the record: Writing by hand is making a resurgence.

LILEKS: Why is this airplane seat $42 more than the one behind it? Because someone will pay it

I recently got on a plane, and then got off. Unlike some people, it was voluntary. There were no dramatic events, no viral video opportunities;…
Lileks: If you hate leaf blowers, you don't have one

Lileks: If you hate leaf blowers, you don't have one

Why do we detest something that's so useful? Sorry, can't hear you.

LILEKS: Time for the annual desire for an emdorkifying vehicle

Spring brings an irrational desire I have fought for years: I want a concussion. No, sorry, I meant: I want to buy a moped.For some…
Lileks: It's not 'camp' if you don't need to be current on your shots

Lileks: It's not 'camp' if you don't need to be current on your shots

It's never too early to panic about camp.
Lost Minneapolis: Snapshot provides a glimpse of downtown in the 1930s

Lost Minneapolis: Snapshot provides a glimpse of downtown in the 1930s

Almost everything in this picture — the trolleys, the busy streets, the bright signs — are urban staples we'd love to see again. Take a look.

Lileks: No one believes corporate apologies – next time, just hand out money

Can you believe that United Airlines flight attendant slapped a baby and then set off the smoke detector when she burned a crucifix? Bad PR…
Lileks: Let us not speak of the great July 4th snowstorm

Lileks: Let us not speak of the great July 4th snowstorm

Rev up the lawn mower? Not quite yet.

Lileks: Take a hot bath and lose weight. Or is that notion all wet?

For years, the key to weight loss has been obvious and simple: Eat less and move around more. Run 12 miles each day while licking…
Lileks: Starting June 1, Hwy. 8 narrows to 6 inches, I-94 closed for conversion to metric system

Lileks: Starting June 1, Hwy. 8 narrows to 6 inches, I-94 closed for conversion to metric system

It's our annual account of road repair projects you might not have heard about.
Hot tub diet: Soaking can burn as many calories as mild exercise

Hot tub diet: Soaking can burn as many calories as mild exercise

New research suggests we put away the running shoes and turn on the faucet.
Orphaned photos found in Twin Cities vintage stores hold lost memories

Orphaned photos found in Twin Cities vintage stores hold lost memories

Piles of old photos cut loose from albums reveal American photographic history.
Lileks: Errant packages turn into a bundle of trouble

Lileks: Errant packages turn into a bundle of trouble

Why would you want to get groceries online? There's something about going to the store and squeezing those bananas to make sure they're fresh or…
In the age of tech-filled cars, why is tab renewal still so old-school?

In the age of tech-filled cars, why is tab renewal still so old-school?

Peel and stick license tabs are so 20th-century. Siri, get me new tabs for my car.
Beneath our feet lies a record of how Twin Citians once lived

Beneath our feet lies a record of how Twin Citians once lived

There's no pirate booty hidden below the parking lots of Minneapolis and St. Paul. But for urban archaeologists, there's treasure just the same.
Lileks: Will tech-support robots be able to feel our stress?

Lileks: Will tech-support robots be able to feel our stress?

"New tech support bots will be frighteningly lifelike," said the headline on the internet the other day. It's not an exact quote, but you get…
Lileks: This isn't spring. We need a new season.

Lileks: This isn't spring. We need a new season.

A few weeks of hope before the struggles begin?

Lileks: Every store is out of glue. Here's why.

I could have anticipated the Great Glue Crisis of 2017 if I’d read everything on BuzzFeed. But I can’t. Dumb ’n’ Young is not my…
Lileks: Here's how you can be a Super Bowl LII ambassador

Lileks: Here's how you can be a Super Bowl LII ambassador

How do you get to U.S. Bank Stadium? Practice these answers.
Lileks: Those home delivery meal-services even provide liquefied quail

Lileks: Those home delivery meal-services even provide liquefied quail

So you open all the boxes and containers, roll up your sleeves and prepare to make actual food.
Lileks: Everyone who hates setting the clocks back is wrong, but we can compromise

Lileks: Everyone who hates setting the clocks back is wrong, but we can compromise

It's one of two Sundays a year when we're reminded that the kitchen has more clocks than necessary.
From first shovel to opening day, watching a building go up is an urban pleasure

From first shovel to opening day, watching a building go up is an urban pleasure

We all know about the hard-hats, draftsmen and architects. But is there someone else indispensable to the skyscraper-building process? Of course. The Sidewalk Superintendents.

It's spring at the stores now, and this brings new torments

All of a sudden, the Seasonal Department at Target is full of hope and promise: Seeds! Spades! Lawn furniture! Your heart sings when you see…
Lileks: Sunday liquor sales will bring a pink airborne nightmare

Lileks: Sunday liquor sales will bring a pink airborne nightmare

Predictions about Sunday liquor sales were more accurate than we thought.
Pinball is making a comeback in the Twin Cities — but is it here to stay?

Pinball is making a comeback in the Twin Cities — but is it here to stay?

More than just lights and noise: the persistent percussive pleasures of pinball.

LILEKS: And the Oscar for the trailer that gives away the whole plot goes to . . .

There’s a ceremony for the Lesser Oscars, and you rarely hear about these unsung winners because they’re not good-looking enough. But they deserve some respect,…
Lileks: It's Girl Scout cookie season, and resistance is futile

Lileks: It's Girl Scout cookie season, and resistance is futile

He tries to abstain but still ends up in the thick of things with Thin Mints.

It's Presidents' Day! Hang the decorations, belt out the songs!

It's Presidents' Day, and you didn't get your partner anything, did you? It's not too late to go to the drugstore for a milk-chocolate Polk,…
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