Matt Dorey

A bird is sitting on the grass with a kite

Heavyweight Podcast

Heavyweight Hero image

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 is a manageable number to write about so here is 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 is carefully constructed so that the details unfold as you continue to 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 for the most part feel like you are listening to them resolving it for themselves. I wonder how much they had to discuss while not recording, and how much may have been cut from the recordings. I’m impressed that they managed to toe the line between telling the story and being too voyeuristic.

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 is such an interesting and funny person, and as 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 are concerned with 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 he delivers 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 in which a woman rages and sobs 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 is named after the girl in the video though it’s actually Jonathan’s issue that is resolved. I’d like to explain more about the story but I think 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.

As a result the third episode made me a believer but it also intrigued me as to what the podcast is really about. Whose experiences are we listening to? Or is the experience really our experience of listening to it? Sometimes it feels clunky: the third episode has very 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 very many podcasts but perhaps these are experiments in the form? Or maybe he’s cribbing from other podcasts? I’ve mostly listened to discussion-type podcasts up until now 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 are doing.

That’s where I’ve got to. When this post goes up, episode four goes out the next day. I’m looking forward to it. I recommend the Heavyweight podcast, it’s available through iTunes and Soundcloud. I’d love to hear of more podcast suggestions in the comments. (Please use the contact form if comments are closed.)

Cover image is “Weighing Machine” by Hiroaki Maeda, creative commons license.

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