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James Lileks

Columnist | Variety
Phone: 612-673-7858

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 lileks.com, and those who don't are probably grateful for the heads-up, and will avoid it," Lileks says.
Recent content from James Lileks
Deer me — it's another sign of the times

Deer me — it's another sign of the times

A 2032 headline: "Highway accident blamed on driver not updating his Tesla's Mastodon recognition software"That's the last line of this piece. How, you ask, do…
Lileks: Only optimists plant grass in the fall

Lileks: Only optimists plant grass in the fall

Didn't we just do this?
Bookmobiles began servicing Hennepin County residents in 1922

Libraries on wheels have a storied past

Baby boomers fondly remember the traveling libraries.
A bird in the wild — beautiful. One trapped in your shed, not so much.

Lileks: Things that go screech in the middle of the night

There it is again.
Sometimes you just have to get out of town.

Lileks: The last road trip of the summer

Some observations about Minnesota roads.
Too much texting can take the suspense out of sports.

Lileks: Why do sports fans succumb to over-texting?

The trouble with giveaway tweets.
September 5, 1923: President Calvin Coolidge sat at his desk about a year after his appearance at the Minnesota State Fair.

Lileks: Fair left its mark on Calvin Coolidge

Flashback to the State Fair of 1922.
Lileks: They've got your number

Lileks: They've got your number

Can you call up the North American Numbering Plan Administration, or NANPA, with any numbering questions?
Lileks: How Minnesota's great State Fair could be even better

Lileks: How Minnesota's great State Fair could be even better

Seven suggestions for improvement.
In the early years of the State Fair, structures were made of wood and clothing was formal. Card by V.O. Hammon Publishing, mailed 1912.

Why the Minnesota State Fair is the best small town in the state

The fairgrounds offer an eclectic mix of architecture, walkability and storefronts.
Anthony Edwards (left) and Robert Carradine stared as the title characters in the 1984 comedy “Revenge of the Nerds.

Lileks: Is Minnesota the land of 10,000 nerds?

A national ranking of states finds Minnesota is the 17th nerdiest.
Lileks: Floored by dead batteries

Lileks: Floored by dead batteries

Could it possibly be 09 2031 already?
Every visitor to the State Fair has something that they must see. eat or get.

Lileks: What's your special State Fair thing?

In praise of the gratis yardstick.
Once-crowded supermarket pasta shelves now sit empty.

Lileks: Tangled up in the spaghetti shortage

The evidence is clear.
Mark di Suvero’s “Inner Search” sculpture was unveiled in 1980 in downtown Minneapolis at Northwestern National Bank’s new operations center.

A sculpture made waves when it was installed in Minneapolis. And then one day it was gone

We went in search of "Inner Search."
Even short-term forecasts are spotty, and we all know this.

Lileks: There's 100% chance weather app will be 20% accurate

Having multiple weather apps increases the odds that one of the forecasts might be right.
Good fences make good neighbors — especially if you make your feelings known.

Lileks: Let's air our gripes about our neighbors

Why can't they be like us?
New York City shoplifters are targeting Spam.

Lileks: On the lam with Spam? Gotham crooks target Minnesota treat

Professional shoplifting gangs are boosting canned meat.
Is a ticket to a Bruce Springsteen concert worth getting a second mortgage on your house?

Lileks: Inflation hits a high note at rock concerts

Our columnist can't imagine spending $5,000 to see Bruce Springsteen, particularly if binoculars are involved.
Lileks: It's time to start planning your Minnesota State Fair eating strategy

Lileks: It's time to start planning your Minnesota State Fair eating strategy

There will be people who starve themselves and head out with a map to try everything, but some of us stick to what we did in the past.
Why Minnesotans are all wrong about 'the Dakotas'

Why Minnesotans are all wrong about 'the Dakotas'

For too long, Minnesotans have remained ignorant when it comes to their neighbors to the west.
A lawsuit claims that Skittles are unfit for human consumption.

Lileks: Not all fear and Skittles

What does the rainbow taste like?
A mosquito.

Lileks: Where have all the mosquitoes gone?

The usual summer plague hasn't stung us yet in the Twin Cities area.
Lileks: Cereal-scented candles are on fire

Lileks: Cereal-scented candles are on fire

Target is now selling candles that smell like breakfast cereals.
Lileks: Wondering when the perfect summer day will be? The averages have spoken

Lileks: Wondering when the perfect summer day will be? The averages have spoken

Admit it: Weather drama is exciting.
Lileks: Hey, hackers, just try to read this

Lileks: Hey, hackers, just try to read this

The criminal who stole my credit card number must be passing it around. Every few days, I get an alert on my phone because someone…
Lileks: Why do bad things happen to good lawns?

Lileks: Why do bad things happen to good lawns?

Why should we be concerned about the lawns? They obviously don't care about us.
The days of pins and pool in downtown Minneapolis

The days of pins and pool in downtown Minneapolis

The forgotten life of a long-empty parking lot.

Lileks: Dogs don't get a bang out of the Fourth

On the night of June 22, we had the first example of the seasonal puzzler: Fireworks or gunfire?The dog didn't bother with the distinction. His…
Rossman’s “Store of Tomorrow,” shown in a vintage advertisement, opened in April 1941 at 6th Street and Nicollet.

Rossman's ushered in new era of shopping in the Twin Cities

Air-conditioning and "miraculous fluorescent lighting" were among the features touted by the store.
A rendering from Minnesota’s pitch to host the 2027 World’s Fair.

All's fair in bidding for the World's Fair

Perhaps you were surprised to learn that Bloomington still is in the running for the 2027 World's Fair. I'd forgotten all about that bid, but…
How weather means a call for air conditioner repair.

Lileks: It's not the heat, it's the broken A/C

It's hard to keep your cool in a hot spell.
Getting rid of ants on the patio is no easy task.

Lileks: Adventures in pest control

Let me tell you, Queen and all your minions, you have to go.
Published in 1938, the “Standard Father’s Day Book” spelled out the proper way to celebrate the holiday.

Lileks: How to do Father's Day the old-fashioned way

Tips from another time.
Google has released a list of the words most often looked up for their spelling.

Lileks: Google says this is the word Minnesotans seek the most help spelling

The search engine released a state-by-state list of words residents don't know how to spell.
A small portable iron.

Lileks: We're ironing out all the problems

Your iron has sent you a notification.
Lileks: Goodbye, orange roof, we'll (sort of) miss you

Lileks: Goodbye, orange roof, we'll (sort of) miss you

The last Howard Johnson's restaurant has closed.
Movie theaters are looking for ways to draw audiences back.

Lileks: Buy a ticket to Refund Zone, the sequel

When the new theaters don't deliver.
Lileks: The voices are coming from inside the car

Lileks: The voices are coming from inside the car

Irish Female and Lady Car Voice aren't nearly as helpful as they should be.
An exterior view of the RBC Gateway Tower in Minneapolis.

RBC Gateway in downtown Minneapolis isn't splashy, but it's functional

Review: It's big and it's blue, but it's no threat to the IDS.
Who’s ordering hot sauce?

Lileks: They're havin' a hot time in North Dakota

Could hot sauce orders really be tops in the nation?
Lileks: Another day, another need for a shot

Lileks: Another day, another need for a shot

Monkeypox is on the loose.
TSA agents checked passengers preparing to board a flight.

Lileks: In dog we trust (especially at the airport)

You think you know what to do, and then the airport changes it up.
Lileks: Traveling can be a real trip

Lileks: Traveling can be a real trip

It's the only way to be safe.
Now we know when the top of the tower was removed and a whole lot more about the Milwaukee Road Depot.

Readers help solve Milwaukee Road mystery

Two weeks ago, I asked for help with an answer to this question: When did the top of the Milwaukee Road Depot tower disappear?The…
Lileks: Spring lawn care in 142 easy-to-follow steps

Lileks: Spring lawn care in 142 easy-to-follow steps

The yearly struggle begins.
Ads on social media may have sunk to a new, potty mouth low.

Lileks: Sorry about the bad word

Ads on social media may have sunk to a new, potty-mouthed low.
Lileks: 'Mom' or 'Mother,' it means the same: love

Lileks: 'Mom' or 'Mother,' it means the same: love

Moms have changed in the past few generations. I don't mean the way they act or fuss or worry or care, but the way they…
Does the thought of a robotic nurse bring to mind the robot from “The Day the Earth Stood Still”?

Lileks: Revenge of the robot nurses

Given the choice between a robot programmed to pretend to be interested in me and an overworked, underpaid human with their own set of problems pretending to be interested in me, what's better?
It’s said that Minneapolis’s Milwaukee Road Depot lost its ornate cupola in the 1941 storm. Where’s the proof?

The mystery of the vanishing top of the Milwaukee Road Depot tower

How long has the cupola been gone? And what happened to it?
Dog tags have a long history — and lots of meaning.

The history of dog tags

The other day our dog's off-leash park tag arrived. For an annual fee of $38, you can be assured you will not be stopped by…
Is a raw Pop-Tart now considered a gourmet treat?

Lileks: The newest sign of sophistication — Pop-Tartare

New lows in culinary manners.
Lileks: Unexpected person in office area

Lileks: Unexpected person in office area

It's time to consider letting the self-checkout assistants work from home.
Better answer your phone. It might be your parking meter calling.

Lileks: How to make parking meters even worse

Offers are too good to be true.
Did you jump the gun on storing your snowblower for the summer?

Lileks: Is it your fault that spring is late?

If it looks like January, it'll be the fault of everyone who decided it was safe to put away the snowblower.
Tourists at the Cancun International Airport.

Lileks: When your vacation ends in panic

What actually happened at Cancun airport?
This iconic sign, made by sculptor Bob Johnson, was one of many Twin Cities landmarks and points of interest.

Billboards could bring some much needed life to downtown Mpls. streets

There was a time when billboards were fun, bright, vivacious and artistic.
Nothing ruins a good night’s sleep like a needless phone call.

Lileks: No news is good news at 3:45 a.m.

No one wants to hear about COVID booster eligibility in the middle of the night.
Resort hotels line the beach in Cancun, Mexico.

Lileks: Complaining never takes a vacation

As Shakespeare put it, the fault, Horatio, lies not in the stars but in us, and our reluctance to consult Google Maps when making a reservation.
The paintings in the Nicollet Hotel were 7 1⁄2 feet high.

Throwback: Mural provided a change of scenery for grand hotel

A local artist brought life the Nicollet Hotel ballroom during a 1940s remodel.
The government distributed free COVID home tests.

Lileks: Warning! Do something! But what?

The phone buzzed at 12:43 a.m. with a notice: CORONAVIRUS EXPOSURE NOTIFICATION.OK. You have my attention, whoever you are; do tell. According to the words…
No one ever forgave Dayton’s for changing its name.

Lileks: Please stop changing the names

Or at least stop being silly.
Does this look like an asteroid?

Lileks: What animal do you associate with asteroids?

. . . is better than none
Lileks: Everything's fancy when it's imported

Lileks: Everything's fancy when it's imported

Wheaties smugglers make big bucks!
Our toasting of St. Patrick's Day will turn Wisconsin green with envy

Our toasting of St. Patrick's Day will turn Wisconsin green with envy

Minnesota drinks more on St. Patrick's Day than 48 other states, according to a study. Wisconsin is No. 13.
The front page of the Building Show section took a rather proud approach to the 1922 event.

There was plenty of buzz about the Minneapolis home show of 1922

While there weren't supersized hot tubs or smart window blinds, there were plenty of innovations 100 years ago.
For people who grew up during the Cold War, the hammer-and-sickle symbol represented a constant threat.

Lileks: War puts everything else in perspective

Wishing Ukraine many years.
Lileks: Would you like epaulets with that?

Lileks: Would you like epaulets with that?

Members Only jackets are back, but only for the young.
Graffiti on a warehouse in south Minneapolis.

Is the graffiti on Twin Cities sound barriers and ramps art or visual litter?

The longer it stays, the more graffiti appears.
Lileks: We can't guarantee you'll like this car warranty call

Lileks: We can't guarantee you'll like this car warranty call

I'm trying to reach you about (click).
You can call it Presidents’ Day, but officially the holiday still honors just one of them: Washington.

The truth about Presidents' Day. (We cannot tell a lie. There isn't one.)

What's the real name for today? No, not that.
Actor Henry Golding starred in “Crazy Rich Asians.” The name Henry reached its nadir in 1980 but starting climbing again in 2000.

Lileks: Minnesota bucks the 'Oliver' trend and chooses Henry as most popular name for baby boys

But just say "no thanks" to Hank.
iStock

Lileks: Nothing says love like an internet-connected thing

The ultimate Valentine's Day gift?
It’s Girl Scout Cookie time. Or is it? Who can tell?

Lileks: There's a new normal for Girl Scout cookies

Another pandemic casualty: Girl Scout Guilt.
Lileks: The truth as told by one tough cookie

Lileks: The truth as told by one tough cookie

You've been living a lie.