Heavyweight is a podcast about “heavyweight” issues, in the sense of burdens on the soul, rather than the burning issues of the day. It’s presented by Jonathan Goldstein, who was the host of the WireTap podcast. Each week he helps someone resolve an issue from their past. These include resolving family feuds and understanding mid-life depression.
I am a generalist who often takes a broader view of things. Heavyweight reminds me that the emotions of individuals are as important as the wider trends that affect groups. It’s helped reinforce my recent thinking that one leads to the other and that it’s more of a causal relationship than we might think. Despite my interest in the general, I’m a microeconomist at heart.
As I write this, three episodes of Heavyweight have aired. I know the series could yet go downhill but so far I’ve found each episode improves on the last. Three's a manageable number to write about so here's a mini-review of each episode.
In the first episode Jonathan persuades his elderly father Buzz to resolve a dispute with his brother Sheldon. The story's carefully constructed so that the details unfold as you listen. The interviews and the narration give a real sense of how the brothers have grown apart. While Jonathan sometimes intervenes to help them sort out their issue, it does seem as though you listen to them resolving it for themselves. I wonder how much they had to discuss while not recording, and how much they cut from the recordings. They manage to toe the line between storytelling and voyeurism.
In the second episode Jonathan helps his friend Gregor get some CDs back from a famous musician. This one must have written itself because Gregor's such an interesting and funny person, and as the episode becomes more a meditation on how to interact with celebrities, the CDs start to feel like a macguffin. How would it make you feel if one of your friends suddenly became successful? And how do you measure your life against that success? Can you? Should you?
The first two episodes cover interesting ground. Both concern how we move on from the past. Both consider how it feels to compare yourself to others and fall short. And in both episodes Jonathan worries about his efficacy as interlocutor, while each time delivering a compelling story.
Jonathan’s self-deprecation comes to a head in the third episode with his description about how he wanted to be an artist. It allows him to describe a piece of video art where a woman rages and sobs, all while a girl sits impassively beside her. He says he has always wondered about that girl and sets out to find her.
It’s interesting this episode's named for the girl in the video though it actually resolves Jonathan’s issue. I’d like to explain more about the story but it’s better not to give away spoilers. Suffice to say that a) it’s an interesting story and b) it’s already resolved by the time Jonathan "intervenes".
The third episode made me a believer but it also intrigued me as to what the podcast's really about. Whose experiences do we listen to? Perhaps the experience is our experience of listening to it? Sometimes it feels clunky: the third episode has obvious “thinking music” that plays as Jonathan interjects. The conversation that you’re more interested in feels paused underneath these intrusions. I don’t listen to a lot of podcasts but perhaps these represent experiments in the form? Or maybe he’s cribbing from other podcasts? I mainly listen to discussion-type podcasts so it’s good to hear something new. I’ve never listened to WireTap but it ran for eleven years, so they must know what they're doing.