Recently in Aha Moments

Aha Moment: Kenneth Goldsmith & John Cage

Friday, August 09, 2013

Kenneth Goldsmith trained as a visual artist at the Rhode Island School of Design.  In the 1980s, his work became wildly popular with collectors and was shown at some of the best galleries in New York City. “What I had become was a businessman,” he says. “And I did this so I wouldn’t ...

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Aha Moment: Maurice

Friday, May 24, 2013

Growing up in the 1970s and '80s, Brian Sloan remembers two types of gay characters in TV and movies: flamboyant decorators, and victims of AIDS. “There was no in-between. And there was no romance involved for gay characters either.” Sloan was in college when he saw Maurice ...

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Aha Moment: Mary Karr's "Entering the Kingdom"

Friday, May 10, 2013

Ten years ago, Beth Greenspan put a poem in her wallet that she’s carried ever since. Her son was just on the verge of adolescence, and she was wistful. “I noticed that his wrists were starting to get thicker, his hands were starting to look bigger. His hand was almost the size of my own ...

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Aha Moment: Winslow Homer

Friday, March 22, 2013

Steve Mumford traveled to Iraq several times to chronicle the war as a painter and illustrator. He was riding in a tank during a mission in Baquba when “the vehicle I was in was hit with two rocket-propelled grenades. Things like that would sometimes happen and they were not, as it turned out ...

Slideshow: Illustrating War

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Aha Moment: Sandra Bernhard

Friday, March 01, 2013

Sandra Bernhard was only eight when she saw a touring production of Hello, Dolly! starring Carol Channing. “Right from the get-go," she remembers, "I assumed I should be a part of the cast. ‘Why am I not on stage here, playing at least one of the supporting roles?’” Sitting there ...

Video: Carol Channing in Hello, Dolly! (1979)

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Aha Moment: Gentleman's Agreement

Friday, February 22, 2013

Listener Susan Evans grew up in rural Louisiana during the 1950s and '60s. Her first year of high school was also the first year of federally enforced integration in her town — and that did not sit well with her white parents. Susan was never comfortable with her family’s casual racism ...

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Aha Moment: La Forza del Destino

Friday, January 25, 2013

As a kid, Steve Call struggled with school. “At the end of each school year, my mother would go and beg the teacher to pass me on to the next grade,” he remembers, “because I never did learn to read in elementary school.” Call had dyslexia, and although he had ...

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Aha Moment: Finding Nemo

Friday, January 04, 2013

Kiki Kienstra had a good job teaching kindergarten, a nice apartment, and a community of friends. “I didn’t have a big need for change,” she remembers. “You know, everything was fine, so why rock the boat?” One day, on a whim, she saw Finding Nemo, a Pixar movie about a clownfish ...


Aha Moment: Jon Ronson on Kurt Vonnegut

Friday, December 07, 2012

Kurt Vonnegut is a serious writer who holds a special place in the hearts of teenagers. Jon Ronson got hooked on Vonnegut when he was 15. For his long train rides from Cardiff, Wales, to look at colleges, Ronson packed a bag with Vonnegut’s novels, including Slaughterhouse Five ...

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Aha Moment: Lee Ann Womack

Friday, October 26, 2012

Mary Miller fell in love with a man who made his fortune flipping houses.  When the relationship ended, Mary wasn’t just heartbroken — she wanted to beat him at his own game.On the way to the bank to sign a $400,000 loan, Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance” came ...

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Aha Moment: This Side of Paradise

Friday, September 28, 2012

Growing up in Brooklyn, Sandra Sherman’s view of the world was limited. “I was supposed to go to Brooklyn College, if I went to college at all, stay at home, and become a high-school teacher just like my parents,” she remembers. Then one day she picked up This Side of Paradise ...

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Aha Moment: e.e. cummings

Friday, September 14, 2012

As a child Quang Bao fled Vietnam and lived in a refugee camp with his family. They eventually settled in Sugarland, Texas. He was in high school — a mediocre student, uninterested in literature, and unready to accept being gay — when he was given an e.e. cummings’ poem ...

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Aha Moment: Hamlet

Friday, September 07, 2012

A listener named Jeff House told us about his revelation experience with Hamlet. As a teenager he watched the Christopher Plummer film on TV with his big sister, who was enthralled; House was nonplussed. “The language didn’t make sense,” he remembers. The hero was ...

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Aha Moment: Earl "Fatha" Hines

Friday, August 24, 2012

Seth Barkan’s father was a classical cellist who urged his son to follow in his footsteps. Barkan studied classical piano for years, but it never quite suited him. Then one day, accompanying his mother to Costco, he returned with a history of jazz on CD. When he heard the stride pianist Earl “Fatha” Hines ...


Aha Moment: Diane Arbus

Friday, August 17, 2012

Neil Selkirk is an accomplished portrait photographer.  He began his career in London during the 60s, when being a magazine photographer meant wild parties, fancy cars, and beautiful girls.  During a shoot assisting Richard Avedon, he encountered a photograph: A Family One Evening in a Nudist Camp, Pennsylvania, 1965.  Selkirk was shocked ...

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Aha Moment: Love and Rockets

Friday, August 10, 2012

Comic books have not traditionally been a friendly place for women. But artists like Jessica Abel are changing the way women appear in and write comics. Abel was drawn to the genre by the busty Latina mechanic Maggie Chascarillo, a character in the series Love and Rockets ...


Aha Moment: Perry Mason vs. The Paper Chase

Friday, August 03, 2012

Jonathan Amsbary wanted to be a lawyer to "help America be what it was supposed to be." He idealized TV’s Perry Mason, the righteous defense attorney who stood up for the little guy and always made sure justice was done. Just before leaving for college, Amsbary saw The Paper Chase ...


Aha Moment: John Darnielle and Black Sabbath

Friday, July 20, 2012

Twenty years ago John Darnielle formed one of indie rock's great bands: The Mountain Goats. The New Yorker called Darnielle "America's best non-hip hop lyricist”; his songs are moody, literary, maybe a bit navel-gazey. But Darnielle's biggest influence isn't Leonard Cohen ...

Video: Black Sabbath, "Iron Man"


Aha Moment: Enrico Caruso

Friday, June 15, 2012

Sam Zimmerman was not an emotional man — except when it came to opera. He could discourse on Caruso and Callas at length, analyzing the range, the purity of the voice, and the mysterious quality called presence. He passed along that love to his son, Ed, who as an adult discovered ...

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Aha Moment: Doc Watson & Abigail Washburn

Friday, June 08, 2012

Doc Watson, a giant of American folk music, died last month at 89.  Watson’s guitar and banjo playing was a powerful force in the 1960s folk revival, and his long career inspired generations of musicians, among them Abigail Washburn. She was pursuing a career in international law based in China ...

Bonus Track: Abigail Washburn, “Burn Through” from City of Refuge