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James Lileks

Columnist | Variety
Email:
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 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

Lileks: Coronabod, here we come

We're all gaining weight together.
The Lutheran Brotherhood building in downtown Minneapolis in the 1950s.

Long gone, the Lutheran Brotherhood building was a breath of fresh air in the 1950s

Among all the brick and stone of downtown Minneapolis, the Lutheran Brotherhood must have seemed like a cool drink of fresh water. Finished in 1956,…

Lileks: Waiting for the sounds of spring

  These are not official statistics, but some sources say that 100% of the population is sick of COVID-19. Not from it; of it. Nevertheless,…

Lileks: We need a new shaming standard

It's time to become aggressively passive-aggressive.
Members of the American Red Cross remove Spanish influenza victims from a house in St. Louis in 1918.

How the news media played down the pandemics of yore, from Spanish flu to Swine flu

Before the explosion of social media, pandemic news was more sedate.

Lileks: Kids coming back from college full of learnin' and COVID

Ting! Goes the phone. Ah, text from Daughter at college. Hey I’m all ears; do go on. Ting! Have Ting! Some news Why are you…
Family members and volunteers offer up as many as 800 pancakes an hour at the annual benefit breakfast.

At annual memorial breakfast in New Prague, kindnesses stack up

The New Prague Knights of Columbus Hall will honor the memory of a beloved patriarch with pancakes.
Video chats just aren't the same as being at work.

Lileks: What could possibly be the problem with us all telecommuting?

Of course everyone can work from home!
Jude Law as Alan Krumwiede in the thriller “Contagion.”

6 movies about pandemics to watch (or avoid) if you're stuck at home

Stay home, wash your hands (and your TV remote) and enjoy these outbreaks.

LILEKS: The most precious glop in the world right now

James LileksLast week I went to buy hand sanitizer. Oh, no reason!Sometimes you just like to slather your palms with viscous zingy goop. And sometimes…
Look out! It’s pothole season.

Lileks: Let's fill potholes with our tax bills

If only we could have a sign in the neighborhood like you see on the highways: "You will not have your tailbone slammed into your soft palate thanks to road improvements paid for by the following citizens."
Wash your hands -- it's the most important way to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

Lileks: Just don't call it a plaguecation

Let's say you have to stay home until the tanker trucks can go through all the neighborhoods and hose everything down with Purell or chlorine gas. Can you make it?
Well, we all know what this sign means.

Lileks: Are mysterious pop cans marking homes for theft?

This could be like the hobo code of yore.
Driveway leading to Red Owl loading dock, below Southdale Center parking lot, Edina.

With Kowalski's coming to Southdale, the first U.S. mall gets closer to roots

With the addition of a grocery store, Southdale moves one step closer to its original vision as a community hub.

Lileks: Getting in touch with your inner Julia Child

Remember meal kits? There were about 347 companies offering them a few years ago. All the rage. The pitch was simple: Why shop for groceries…

Lileks: The joys of boiler repair

"Tic-tic-tic-tic." "Phoomph." "Gosh!"That is what you want to hear when it's 10 below. The gosh, however could be a problem.The tic-tic-tic is the furnace's igniter.…
Even longtime Twin Cities residents have trouble remembering the rules for snow emergencies.

Lileks: There are rules for snow emergencies — but can you remember them?

It snowed? How's that an emergency? The word implies some sort of unanticipated disaster. Snow is what it does here in the winter.

Lileks: New purchase fails to spark joy

Last week, Gallup released a poll that said that 90% of Americans describe themselves as "happy." I'll bet they all have Instant Pots. Those are…
If you want a morning Bloody Mary or an Evening Blue Martini, you’re going to need to wait until 6 a.m.

Lileks: The airport needs a laughing gas kiosk

Do we really need to start drinking at 5 a.m.?
January was all gloomy skies. Will a new month mean more sunshine?

Lileks: How Minnesotans cope with the sunless midwinter mope

The skies have been cloudy all day — and most of the month.
The Furbo ($249) allows pet owners to watch — and treat — their dogs remotely.

Furbo dispenses remote-control treats, love and confusion to your pet

A new dog camera allows you to keep your pet close — and in kibbles — even when you're far away.

LILEKS: The future of grocery store checkouts – awful or awesome?

The self-checkout at the grocery store was not happy with me. Not happy at all. The robot voice sternly announced, “Unexpected item in bagging area.”…
Slow and steady at least finishes the race.

The word of the week: Slowmentum

Slow and easy and proud of it.

Lileks: How to troubleshoot the inexplicable

Have you heard of Disney+?It's a new streaming service that lets you watch, for a monthly fee, the movies you saw in theater, then bought…
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Lileks: How many gloves have you lost?

Maybe they ran off with the missing socks.
Sure, it looks pretty when it falls. But that pristine white doesn’t last forever, and eventually you’re left with snirt.

Word of the week: Meltschmerz

When snow becomes a dirty word.

Lileks: How to be an idiot at the airport

I had an exciting experience at the airport that I've been awaiting for years. I saw something, and then I said something. I've done that…
Detail of the blue bulbs that illuminate the Christmas ball. ] JEFF WHEELER • Jeff. There's a new player in the holiday light

Lileks: Are your holiday lights still up?

Yes, it'll be a bit sad to see the neighborhoods less bright. But it's a sign of hope to take down the lights. It means that the end of winter is coming.
Minneapolis’ tallest building was once the Foshay Tower, foreground, an obelisk.

Think the Minneapolis skyline is unique? Think again – we have copycat buildings in our midst

Some of our landmark buildings aren't so unique. Others are ours alone.

Lileks: To read this online, you must accept my new privacy policy

Start setting aside egg beaters, right now. Trust me. Why? I’ll explain. In 10 years you’ll read stories about people who make a nice living…
Vector illustration of a man with a flu or cold lying in bed. He looks tired, has a red nose, is snorting and sweating, has an ice bag on his head and

Lileks: Never mind the flu – there's (always) a cold going around

If you say you feel like you’re getting a cold, someone’s sure to say, “Yeah, there’s one going around.” As if there’s a designated office…

LILEKS: Hot sauce heaven, or hell?

Growing up in North Dakota, the hottest thing I ever ate was a radish. "Angry hard-berries," we called them. They seemed to suggest there was…
A crew arrived to de-ice the sidewalk at the 38th St. Station on the Blue line in south Minneapolis in February.

Lileks: If you can't deal with slipping on the ice, don't live in Minnesota

It comes with living in a state that's frozen half the year.
The Francis Drake Hotel in Minneapolis (shown circa 1931) opened in 1924 and cost “nearly One-Half Million Dollars.”

In its heyday, Drake Hotel offered Old World allure

Built in 1926, Minneapolis hotel lost to Christmas fire slipped into second-tier status after a decade or two.
How spooky is your avatar?

Word of the week: Spookitar

Who's afraid of Twitter?
Are you ready for some '20s?

What we think about decades past might not be so

How we define a decade has to do with what sticks in our collective memory.

Lileks: Easy-to-follow 2020 resolutions

Perhaps we say New Year’s “resolution” because it’s less binding than the word “promise.” No one wants to break their promise. Everyone’s pretty much OK…
The costume helps acheive Santa-ness.

Word of the week: Clausibility

It's what makes a credible Claus.
A scene from the 1946 holiday classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Your last-minute holiday TV viewing guide

In the mood for a holiday show? There are plenty of them.
Here’s what we think about dogs wearing fake antlers: “How cute!” Here’s what your dog thinks about it: “I don’t understand what’s happe

Why you shouldn't humiliate your pet during the holidays

There are approximately 9 hundred million pictures on the internet of dogs wearing Santa caps.

LILEKS: Why do we keep doing the same things for the holidays?

Do you have any zombie holiday traditions?I don't mean dressing up as an undead Santa who tumbles insensate down the chimney and staggers around moaning…
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Lileks: Holiday to-do list includes panicking

All the things that are left to stress about.
I know there’s a sidewalk under here somewhere.

Word of the week: Hidewalk

It's why Minnesotans walk like penguins nearly half the year.
Want to alienate a 'Star Wars' fan? Here's how

Want to alienate a 'Star Wars' fan? Here's how

"Star Wars" fans have more opinions than the galaxy has planets. Arguing about them is now essential to the fan experience.

LILEKS: No, I do not want a text alert when my dog barks

When your kids grow up, you no longer care about the Christmas must-have toy.You recall old headlines — "Furby shortage leads to riots, 97 hospitalized"…
Jars of Carmex lip balm protectant move down an assembly line.

Lileks: Billions of pounds of lip balm are missing

Where did all the unused balm go? Our lips are sealed.

Lileks: Getting more e-mail is no reward

The store clerk asked the customer ahead of me the query we have all learned to expect: “Are you a rewards member?” He mumbled that…
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Lileks: Sidewalk shoveling is a legal snow job

Sometimes we'd be better off just ignoring the flakes — and while we're at it, the law.
Lileks: Is it possible to hate your printer more? Yes

Lileks: Is it possible to hate your printer more? Yes

It’s wise to live a virtuous life for its own rewards, but if you worry that your sins may land you in a hot place,…
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Lileks: 'One goes out, rest stay lit' is a lie

The annual battle with the holiday lights.
Oh, that one: the Public Service Center in Minneapolis.

Public Service Center may not be worth saving, but it's worth remembering

The demolition of the rather ordinary Public Service Center in Minneapolis will leave a gap in the city scape.

Lileks: Going Full Queeg on the berry thief

Someone I know was the victim of a crime recently. She stored some berries in a fridge at the office, and someone stole them. You…
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Lileks: Our pie preferences are unshakable

Don't get shook up about the dessert-hoax graphic.

LILEKS: Cold weather means indoor mice

"Ohgahd! Heww! Yukk! Uhhg!"That's a direct quote.My wife got out the bowl of dog kibble from the cupboard and uttered some improvised phonemes of surprise…
A fresh coating of snow atop of ice along the Mississippi River below St. Anthony Falls Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2109, in Minneapolis.

Lileks: November, you're doing it wrong

Perhaps if we were to sing Turkey Carols?
“Seinfeld” is available for free on Sony’s Crackle service.

4 free streaming options you might be missing out on

Can you deal with a few ads?

Lileks: Watching paint dry was just the exciting start

  This is a story as insubstantial as dryer lint and exciting as watching paint dry. That’s because it is literally a story about dryer…
Large historical panoramas hang in the Wells Fargo Bank building’s skyway in Downtown East.

You can learn a lot about Minneapolis history by walking the skyways

Photos, murals and other collections make the skyways into mini-museums.
Krispy Kreme doughnuts

Lileks: Hail the doughnut smuggler

How do we really feel about our doughnuts?

Lileks: Everyone's got a point with 'OK Boomer'

Perhaps you’ve seen a young person wearing a T-shirt that says “OK Boomer” and thought, “That’s nice. They’re honoring their elders!” No, not at all.…

Lileks: This one weird Netflix trick shortens winter

Let's fast-forward seasons the way we do videos.
Laika, a female, was launched into space in 1957 aboard Sputnik II, paving the way for human space missions.

Remembering Laika the space dog

The Soviet stray wasn't the only dog in space, but she became the most famous one.
Kids played on top of a snowed-in car in Minneapolis after the Halloween blizzard of 1991.

Lileks: Hey, did you know we had a blizzard on Halloween?

“Hey, new guy, have you heard about the Halloween Blizzard?” New guy: “Uh, yeah, In fact, it came up 10 times last week.” Us: “Because…
Security lines can be the worst part about modern travel.

How to make the awesome MSP Airport even better

Here are seven easy improvements that James Lileks thinks the Stakeholder Committee should consider.
He had to wait for more than seven decades, but Dan Cylkowski, 94, finally has proof that he completed his degree.

After waiting 72 years, Minnesota WWII vet finally has his diploma from the U

The 94-year-old thought it was about time he got what he deserved.
There’s a new word for those who are greener than thou.

Word of the week: Ecotistical

The word of the week will turn you green with envy
The panorama revealed everyday details, such as tents pitched in a lawn.

STREETSCAPES: Panorama revisited

Readers help reveal the story behind a massive, rarely seen overview of the city.

Lileks: It's time to outlaw bank checks

If you fill out a survey online, there’s often a question about your age group. The choices should go like this: • Opinion can be…
This notice reads: Protect guests and employees from foodbourne illnesses!

Lileks: City reminds you to wash your hands

A sudden case of dotted lines.

James Lileks: Fitted bed sheets leave us fit to be tied

Blame Bertha. Or thank her. Or both. Bertha Berman patented the fitted bed sheet in 1959, which means this is the 60th anniversary of Not…
It's two seasons in one!

Lileks: Snowblowers and the two stages of winter denial

How to prepare for the coming storms.
Take a photo tour of Mpls. in 1907 with astonishing, interactive panorama

Take a photo tour of Mpls. in 1907 with astonishing, interactive panorama

A panoramic photo of the city taken on a large-format camera in 1907 offers an incredible time capsule. "It reveals things that essentially nobody ever saw before. It's so immersive."
A nurse prepares a flu shot at the Salvation Army in Atlanta.

Lileks: Annual flu vaccine is a real shot in the arm

  News: Scientists predict a bad flu season. Oh. Really? One of these years we’re going to be told to expect a great flu season.…
Lileks: What is Minnesota's favorite treat at the movies?

Lileks: What is Minnesota's favorite treat at the movies?

A highly unscientific surveys says we're Almond Joy lovers. You'll never guess Wisconsin's snack.
The dark structure has perched atop the CenturyLink Building for more than 50 years.

After 50-plus years, the CenturyLink building in Mpls. sheds its crown

The $600,000 crown was installed in the late '60s.