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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
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.
My nervous dog earned a poor rating on a pet sitting site. Now what?

My nervous dog earned a poor rating on a pet sitting site. Now what?

He'll never shake that one-star rating.
Lileks: What's your soy sauce situation?

Lileks: What's your soy sauce situation?

The perils of excess soy-sauce packets.
Lileks: The cream cheese conspiracy leaves a sour taste

Lileks: The cream cheese conspiracy leaves a sour taste

Long time kvetching
No gas, no squeegee, no way

No gas, no squeegee, no way

It's in the social contract
Lileks: It's unreal how real it is

Lileks: It's unreal how real it is

A report from the Metaverse.
A Kresge store on Nicollet Mall, circa 1960.

Minnesota's five-and-dime stores were the Target of 20th-century Main Street

Dime stores offered everything from socks to hamburgers.
A line formed outside the main gates of the Minnesota State Fair early on opening day of the 2021 fair.

Lileks: Less is less, but also more — and that's fair

Two magic words that help with winter.
Was French dressing being dishonest?

Was French dressing being dishonest?

The brave new world of unregulated dressing.
The annual list of banished words has no official means of removing them from the dictionary.

Lileks: At the end of the day, awesome phrases still exist, literally

But make sure you circle back.
A New York City pharmacy posted a sign noting that home rapid tests for COVID-19 were sold out.

Lileks: What do you do when you run out of COVID tests?

The days in which people can freely test over and over again have passed, for a while.
Minnesotans do well in resisting excess — except at the State Fair.

Lileks: If there's Minnesota nice, there should be Minnesota naughty

New survey totals up our sins.
Want a low-stress new year’s resolution? Start by vowing to know what day it is.

Want to make a New Year's promise you can keep? Try these 11 Low Effort Resolutions

Need an emotional boost as we head into what could be another tough year? Make a resolution you know you can achieve.
Lileks: When you're a jerk, you're a jerk all the way

Lileks: When you're a jerk, you're a jerk all the way

How to ruin "West Side Story" for everyone.
There are many ways to celebrate New Year’s Eve, but only one song to sing. Now, why is that?

Lileks: New New Year's songs

Why is there only one?
Beware the question: Did you find everything you were looking for? It’s a difficult one to answer.

Lileks: The pastrami-shaped hole in one's life

Existential questions from the grocery store clerk.
Wall-mounted pot fillers have the water line installed inside the back wall behind the stovetop.

Lileks: Cooking up a Christmas miracle

Appliance installation produces a range of emotions
Lileks: What's our favorite Christmas movie?

Lileks: What's our favorite Christmas movie?

The answer might surprise you!
Gold colored top ten award sitting on red background. Horizontal composition with copy space. Directly above view. Top 10 concept.

Lileks: Ten problems with Top 10 Lists

All the things you missed.
Lileks: Spilling the beans about a broken coffeemaker

Lileks: Spilling the beans about a broken coffeemaker

The problems with online shopping.
White birch (aka birch poles) is a popular item for holiday pots.

Lileks: Bye-bye, birch, as a December mainstay

Hello, lonely firs.
Lileks: Putting up the lights early is not always a bright idea

Lileks: Putting up the lights early is not always a bright idea

News story: A man in Tampa, Fla., hired some pros to put up his Christmas lights on Nov. 6. His homeowners association fined him $1,000…
Lileks: Are Minnesotans poor poo picker-uppers?

Lileks: Are Minnesotans poor poo picker-uppers?

What's to blame for our dog-doo rating?