Review: On Musk with Walter Isaacson

Review: On Musk with Walter Isaacson

I never thought I might find that I have something in common with Elon Musk. Honestly, I never anticipated, or wanted, to write this review because I’ve been sick of hearing about the guy. I was doing pretty well on Twitter before him, and I am of course bitter about that in particular. I say this as someone who has seen SpaceX and a SpaceX launch - and loved it.

Then again, I guess we all have things in common with everyone. It’s just where we point the commonalities that make us similar or not. As in, Elon Musk and I have a wondering, wandering mindset. His has taken him to wherever he’s managed to be, and mine has taken me to where I am.

On Musk with Walter Isaacson from Kaleidoscope Studios, was not on my podcast bingo card this month. The four-part series piqued my interest when Podcast Delivery sent an “I’m Sorry” email highlighting the podcast. Okay, it made me laugh, and I said maybe I’ll listen to the podcast. Each episode was only about 45 minutes long, and I had a lot of laundry to do.

Hosted by Evan Ratliff, I want to start by saying that I would listen to many more podcasts like this. It's incredibly smooth, consumable, and yet not lacking in depth. I’m not always one for reading biographies, especially about people from this century, but I also sometimes feel like I’m missing out on another cultural zeitgeist moment by not being the next one in line for the book. This podcast outlines and discusses Isaacson’s biography, his way of writing, and the point of the book he wrote in such a way that makes me feel like I get the gist of it without committing to the whole read. I love it for that gift of time and money that I didn’t want to spend otherwise.

I think what makes Isaacson a good biographer, and Ratliff a great interviewer, is how they look at people. Of course, currently, Elon Musk isn’t the world’s favorite person. He is human, however, the public might see him as a hero or an incredibly flawed techno-despot. The fact that both Ratliff and Isaacson are open to seeing the full picture, and even then continue to question the full picture, makes this a podcast worth listening to. It’s not one where the listener should be worried about the quality of the audio, the reporting, or even the depth of conversation. It’s approachable while being on the erudite side, and incredibly human despite being about Elon Musk.

I almost feel like I should apologize to Kaleidoscope for rolling my eyes when I saw this podcast come across my pages. It gave me a bigger picture and reminded me that we need to learn how to hold many truths at once. Elon Musk might be the reason we get to Mars someday, even if he’s not doing the calculations himself. He also might have some qualities that make him a not-so-nice person to work with or for. These things can all be true, and it’s up to us to decide how we want to approach it - not the decision of social media, whether it be fawning or sharpening a pitchfork.

Listen to On Musk with Walter Isaacson Here

The Bigger Picture

A podcast like this offers listeners something that many others don’t. Often when we see limited series, it’s a deep dive into a topic that might be so deep it’s confusing. Even if it’s a conversation podcast like this one, you almost want to take notes to focus and keep on the thread of the story that’s being handed out. This style of interview podcast keeps things fresh in each episode, gives you context on both the main subject, and the expert on said subject, and is balanced enough to make you question your perspective, just a little bit. You don’t feel like you’re getting into the weeds of the story, but you also don’t feel like you’re missing details that round out what you’re hearing.

I’d love to hear more interviews like this in particular, and I’m sure they’re out there. Recommend it to me because apparently I’m on Threads now and you can see my Twitter-Like Blatherings there.