Jennifer Higdon is an American composer born in Atlanta, Georgia. Her concertos have earned her a Pulitzer Prize for Music and a Grammy Award. Cold Mountain is her first opera, and it was co-commissioned by The Santa Fe Opera and Opera Philadelphia. She was reached by phone at her home in Philadelphia. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

ML: How is composing for opera different from the composition work you’ve done in the past?

JH: It’s really different, first of all, because you’re trying to take care of actual characters in a story. You have to think about, because opera is over two hours, how you structure something musically so that it’s interesting for the audience. You also have to think about what kind of music depicts these characters. Basically I’m trying to figure out how to draw an aural picture of these people, but it’s really hard. More… “Accented Arias”

Maren Larsen is the associate editor of The Smart Set. She is a digital journalism student, college radio DJ, and outdoor enthusiast.

I missed the moment when shop window displays changed from Santa red to sexy scarlet:  a fabulous froth of lace and slinky silken negligees. Most of the neighborhood still has Christmas lights up, but all the stores are pushing Valentine’s Day. In spite of the omnipresent window displays and advertisements, I’ll bet millions of men will forget Valentine’s Day. It could be chromosomal. Or maybe forgetting is a pose, a form of resistance. If men looked at Valentine’s Day like a second Halloween, it might be more fun.


That’s what I’ve decided to do, and it works for me.

Why not? After all, stores are filled with candy, and, while it’s not exactly the same as trick-or-treat, with a little imagination the evening of February 14 can be perked up to the next level with costumes. Just try… More…


Power, as Henry Kissinger gloated, is the ultimate aphrodisiac. At his star’s highest point in 1810 — he was then aged 41 — the Emperor Napoleon was the master of continental Europe, with 44 million people under his control. Then, in a moment of candor, he confessed to an aide that he had done it all not for glory, patriotism, or ego, but for love: As the world’s most powerful man, he could sleep with any woman he desired.

In the Emperor’s bedroom, however, the reviews were mixed. Just as he indifferently bolted down his food, paid no attention to his clothes, and could be self-absorbed and distracted in conversation, Napoleon’s romantic style, admits one otherwise admiring biographer, was “anything but endearing.” A description by the author Stendahl, backed up by members of Napoleon’s staff, describes his “brutally… More…


As every woman knows, men with mother issues are seriously dangerous. In the early- to mid-20th century, there was a group of such men that decided it could revolutionize the way mothers raise their children. First of all, stop kissing them — lord knows what germs you’re passing on. And really, just put them in this box that B.F. Skinner calls a “baby tender,” throw some toys in there, and they’ll be fine. Don’t pick them up when they cry, and don’t play with them — they have to toughen up some day. While the baby tender failed to catch on outside Skinner’s own family, parenting guides and doctors were telling new mothers that too much affection would weaken their children both physically and emotionally.

Luckily for the world, their reign was short. Harry Harlow arrived on the… More…

It’s odd how prudish educated people become when the topic turns to consumerism. They’re fine with the raunchiest sex talk, but bring up product talk and they get all fussy and judgmental. We’ve seen some of this in the response to the new Sex and the City movie. All the high-brow types are appalled by the film’s consumerism, but you don’t hear a peep about the sex. As I see it, it’s the sex that’s vulgar and pedestrian and the buying that’s creative and inspiring. After watching the film, I wanted to renovate my wardrobe and redecorate my house.

Paula Marantz Cohen is Dean of the Pennoni Honors College and a Distinguished Professor of English at Drexel University. She is the host of  The Drexel InterView, a unit of the Pennoni Honors College. The Drexel InterView features… More…

What comes after Flickr, after Twitter? What comes after every stranger on the Internet has studied your wedding photos more closely than you have, after business associates know details of your life you previously reserved for priests and bartenders and you’re left wondering how to establish a degree of intimacy with your nearest and dearest that remains exclusive, unequalled, special?

How about the Siamese twins of toilets, the Twodaloo? As its name suggests, the Twodaloo is a commode for couples that consists of two regular toilets positioned side by side in reverse direction, so its users sit facing each other. A “modest privacy wall” blocks inadvertent views of laps, but provides no protection at all against the pinched facial contortions your beloved undergoes while struggling to evict last night’s pot roast.

If this sounds like a joke, it was — 10 years ago. That’s when Saturday Night Live featured a… More…