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Nick Kolakowski
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Nick Kolakowski is an editor and freelance writer living in Brooklyn, NY. He has written for The Washington Post, McSweeney’s, Playboy, eWeek, Carrier Pigeon, and Trader Monthly.

Entries by Nick Kolakowski

The Dying Art of Mixtapes

(0) Comments | Posted December 23, 2013 | 8:50 AM

I've been trying to put together an ideal song-mix for the very long holiday journey south, which made me think about all the hours I've spent crafting mixes for other people.

First things first: the traditional mix-tape, that plastic cassette loaded with songs painstakingly copied from other sources, is...

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Choose Your Favorite Philosopher

(11) Comments | Posted February 28, 2013 | 4:47 PM

In ancient times, if your goals in life included hanging out with your friends and working as little as possible, you founded a school of philosophy with the stated aim of discovering the meaning of life. That was probably fun for its first few years, drinking wine and wandering around...

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This Valentine's Day, Learn to Recite Romantic-era Poetry on Cue

(5) Comments | Posted February 11, 2013 | 3:15 PM

For the most part, the Romantics weren't a very romantic lot. Lord Byron, whose poetic sensibilities gave us the love-letter-ready line, "She walks in beauty, like the night," awoke on his wedding night with a piercing scream of, "Good God! I am surely in Hell!" (He was once termed "mad,...

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The Intellectual's Super Bowl: Knowing the Basics of Chess

(19) Comments | Posted February 6, 2013 | 3:29 PM

The game of chess takes a lifetime to master and roughly fifteen minutes to kick your butt. Your sixteen pieces -- more on what they do in a minute -- move across the chessboard's sixty-four squares in a dizzying variety of ways. (If you're interested in exactly how many, take...

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Rehearse, Rewrite, Rehearse, Rewrite...

(3) Comments | Posted December 9, 2012 | 6:41 PM

A pervasive myth suggests that geniuses produce their masterworks in a finished state. That the poem came to them in a dream, beautiful and complete, or the theory somehow unspooled from their pen without input from others. This is an excellent myth for geniuses and artists to cultivate about themselves,...

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The Walking Dead and Other Brainy (So to Speak) Graphic Novels I'm Gifting

(1) Comments | Posted December 4, 2012 | 4:16 PM

The other day, I was doing a little bit of holiday shopping in a comic book shop off Manhattan's Union Square when I overheard two teenagers discussing the merits of The Walking Dead, the zombie-apocalypse television show adapted from a long-running series of graphic novels. The discussion focused on whether...

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Getting Into the Holiday Spirit: Cultivate Rivalries With Other Intellectuals

(4) Comments | Posted November 28, 2012 | 11:27 AM

Nikola Tesla versus Thomas Edison. Sigmund Freud battling it out with Carl Jung. Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz at each other's throats. The New Atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, doing their best to shut down every religious scholar on the planet. Your favorite uncle anxious to debate politics...

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Art History Basics: Keeping Your Manets and Masaccios Straight

(0) Comments | Posted November 21, 2012 | 1:20 PM

From Vincent van Gogh's sunflowers to that framed piece of crap hanging in your dentist's office, humankind has produced a lot of famous and not-so-famous paintings. There is, therefore, little shame in viewing an unfamiliar work of art and saying, "I have no idea who painted that," rather than make...

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Buy Books by the Foot

(4) Comments | Posted October 21, 2012 | 7:46 PM

We accumulate books over a lifetime. Some favorite titles we read once a year, or certain passages once a day. Other books we neglect on the shelf, unread for years, reduced to mere decoration, gathering dust, their authors' sweat and blood and toil left unacknowledged and wasted...

Ahem, yes. Anyway....

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Peruse These Hunting Grounds for Your Fellow Intellectuals

(5) Comments | Posted September 19, 2012 | 4:51 PM

Just as birds may flash plumage or wail in ways irresistible to members of the opposite sex, budding scholars and weary academics alike engage in specific actions to signal their suitability as a mate. Carrying around a book, in hopes of sparking conversation, is such a time-honored tactic -- although...

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Back to School: Aspiring to Be a Well-Rounded Thinker

(1) Comments | Posted September 11, 2012 | 4:17 PM

Thanks to our considerable brainpower and opposable thumbs, human beings are generalists when it comes to surviving on planet Earth. Toss us in any new environment, and we have an unnerving habit of staying alive. We can eat nearly anything, provided you cook it long enough.

Contrast that with...

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What the Vidal/Mailer Feud Taught Us: When In Doubt, Laugh

(5) Comments | Posted August 5, 2012 | 7:53 PM

The intellectual life is a difficult one at times. The physicist and astronomer Galileo realized this when he theorized that our planet revolves around the sun, refuting the Bible, and the Catholic Church sentenced him to house arrest for the rest of his natural life. He was neither the first...

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Books for the Intellectual Foodie

(4) Comments | Posted July 31, 2012 | 6:04 PM

The Roman emperors did nothing by half-measures. Vitellius, whose reign in 69 C.E. (that's "Common Era," the alternative to A.D., or "Anno Domini") lasted barely eight months, proved a spectacular failure on most fronts but one: the man knew how to throw together a dinner.

According to the historian Suetonius,...

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Quoting Shakespeare Sparingly

(5) Comments | Posted July 23, 2012 | 10:50 AM

Quoting William Shakespeare is a little like breathing: every living person does it. "He's dead as a doornail," your roommate will say as she flips through the newspaper obits, never realizing she's just quoted part of a couplet from Henry VI. Or take another well-worn phrase, "Let's give the devil...

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Lose a Debate Graciously

(0) Comments | Posted July 11, 2012 | 6:25 PM

Here in the swampy days of summer, it's easy to forget that soon the presidential debate season will be upon us, whether we like it or not. Obama and Romney will square off in a series of bland auditoriums, probing each other's defenses, offering their respective arguments to the American...

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Beware of Spell Check

(6) Comments | Posted July 3, 2012 | 11:34 AM

Spell check is the devil's work. Like many things that sow hatred and destruction in their wake, it was created with the finest intentions: some well-meaning software engineer wanted to alert writers to spelling errors in a document. Once spell check became an integral part of word-processing programs, people began...

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Choose Your Intellectual Role Model

(1) Comments | Posted June 26, 2012 | 4:38 PM

Everybody needs a role model. Your nephew loves baseball, wants to be a major-league player when he grows up, and will probably nurture that dream until another little punk tells him that few human beings can hit a ball more than 450 feet without a little help from steroids. Intellectual...

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Know These Books

(4) Comments | Posted June 19, 2012 | 6:03 PM

Every few years, in a bid to boost readership and set book critics frothing like rabid dogs, a magazine or Website will publish a list of the "greatest novels of all time." The books on these lists rarely change, although individual authors sometimes rise or fall a few rankings. The...

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Avoid Quoting From Bestsellers

(7) Comments | Posted June 11, 2012 | 2:55 PM

It feels sometimes as if no corporate presentation is truly complete without a quote from a public intellectual along the lines of Malcolm Tipping Point Gladwell or Thomas Hot, Flat, and Crowded Friedman, preferably something pithy about how the world really "works."
Globalization flattened everything. Snap judgments are best....

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Read and Comprehend (Nearly) Everything

(22) Comments | Posted June 5, 2012 | 3:40 PM

Zadie Smith's excellent (and rather lengthy) new piece on The New York Review of Books' blog, titled "The North West London Blues," discusses the importance of libraries as social spaces. In arguing so, she's attempting to refute those who argue that libraries, with their neat shelves of printed...

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