Staff Directory 6134704

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
People over 30 often need a dictionary to translate modern slang.

Lileks: At what age should you should stop using contemporary slang?

You might feel "salty" over being "ghosted."
Supply chain issues and staffing shortages have made bare store shelves a frequent sight.

Lileks: Does a bigger store just mean an emptier store?

The shelves are like a retail version of a bedroom for a kid who left for college.
November 23, 1951: The holiday window displays at Dayton’s was a big draw in downtown Minneapolis.

A scene from 1951's Nicollet Mall Christmas display experience

Shoppers gawked at animated elves and electric toy trains.
Lileks: No matter the problem, we can iron it out

Lileks: No matter the problem, we can iron it out

Why does everything have to be a video?
How can we talk faster than New Yorkers?

Lileks: DoMinnesotansreallytalktoofast?

Itdoesn'tseemrightatall.
There was a time when remote controls didn’t require an engineering degree to operate.

Lileks: A remote chance of figuring this thing out

How many modes does fire need?
Viktor the Viking greeted fans before a Minnesota Vikings game.

Lileks: Could Minnesota save the world again?

You'll notice that while the Vikings have never won the Super Bowl, life has continued to flourish on the planet.
We pack them away neatly, but they always turn into a mess.

Lileks: The annual Christmas lights lie

This year would be different: I'd still end up with an underwhelming display — but ahead of schedule.
Lileks: Here's to the lucky lottery losers

Lileks: Here's to the lucky lottery losers

Powerball winners can't really complain, but the rest of us can.
Lileks: What's best time to make an airline reservation?

Lileks: What's best time to make an airline reservation?

Never o'clock, Modnesday.
The Wells Fargo Operations Center, soon to pass from the scene. Will we miss these blue mirrored boxes?

Few will be blue as mirrored glass towers disappear from downtown Minneapolis

The Wells Fargo Operations Center is slated next for replacement.
Lileks: It's time to fall back into the daylight saving time debate

Lileks: It's time to fall back into the daylight saving time debate

We need new paradigms.
Lileks: For dogs, Halloween is the ultimate challenge

Lileks: For dogs, Halloween is the ultimate challenge

According to a post on the Nextdoor thing — you know, all the excitement of LinkedIn with the measured discourse of Facebook — some people…
Minnesotans are perfectly average when it comes to the number of houseplants we own.

Lileks: Are all Minnesotans plant murderers?

Survey shows likelihood of planticide across the U.S.
Shopping online? Want cookies with that?

Lileks: These cookies aren't very sweet

Accept? Reject!
Halloween stores cater to our love of being scared.

Lileks: Halloween stores are so popular it's scary

Why don't they turn into Christmas stores on Nov. 1?
Lileks: This eye test looks suspicious

Lileks: This eye test looks suspicious

Let's imagine if the standard eye appointment was like going to a website.
Lileks: A burning question — what do leaves smell like?

Lileks: A burning question — what do leaves smell like?

In the absence of leaf burning, we're left with autumnal nostalgia.
Before his most recent makeover, Count Chocula didn’t have X’s for eyes.

Lileks: What did they do to Count Chocula?

General Mills' Monster Cereal mascots have undergone unfortunate facelifts.
Schad Tracy Signs workers installed the Edina Theatre sign above the marquee on Aug. 29.

Is there a future for neighborhood theaters in the Twin Cities?

They have a storied past. They can have a future — if we buy tickets.
The parking lot of the empty Kmart that cuts off Nicollet Avenue at Lake Street.

Lileks: What's next for the Nicollet-blocking Kmart site?

What should be built next?
Lileks: There's no shortage of sweetness this Halloween

Lileks: There's no shortage of sweetness this Halloween

Inflation comes to the Halloween candy aisle.
Lileks: Did the happiness pollsters butter us up?

Lileks: Did the happiness pollsters butter us up?

Sometimes you're happy and bereft on the same day.
Lileks: Deer me — it's another sign of the times

Lileks: Deer me — it's another sign of the times

MnDOT recently announced it is retiring all the deer crossing warning signs because no one paid any attention to them.
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.