How do you study someone?

It’s a question that has been coming up a lot lately.

Perhaps it’s because of my increased consumption in podcasts these past few months. How do they do it? Those podcast hosts, how do they find and interview so many people, and do it so well? Don’t answer, it’s a rhetorical question. I know how, and it ain’t the answer I was hoping for.

So far, I’ve read probably less than a dozen biographies, most of them in audiobook form. A few memoirs and autobiographies as well. What’s the difference, you ask? Autobiographies are self-accounts of the author’s life, written by the author themselves, whereas memoirs are like tiny autobiographies that cover only a section or two of the author’s life.

On the other hand, Biographies are written by someone else. In other words, if someone is writing your biography, that person would go around interviewing you, your friends and family, and anyone relevant, multiple times, over and over again until your biography is finalized.

How do they do it? How do they study someone so well that they can write a whole book about them and their lives? I mean, Steve Job’s biography was over 25 hours long on audio and Einstein’s was over 21 hours long. And yes, I finished both of them some time ago. It isn’t like reading a novel, which is designed to entertain.

Biographies are real, they contain the true story of someone’s whole life, including the boring and mundane bits. It’s like a heavily expanded version of their Wikipedia page, from early childhood to their death. But in the case of Elon Musk’s biography, it ended somewhere after the BFR and it will probably be revised every now and then I think.

Why am I obsessed with studying someone right now? Well, it’s because of my recent Tim Minchin obsession. After discovering his work on youtube, I began binge-watching it every so often, and today was yet another day of binge-watching. Then I found out most of the videos I’ve watched were outdated by a decade or two. In other words, I was watching his previous self, the previous works that made him famous. And the only reason I found out was because of this recent interview.

In fact, he looks different now. Different from all the videos I saw, different from the person I’ve imagined. Or perhaps that was just his stage persona? Either way, he seems a lot more mature now and after a bit of googling, I found his Wikipedia page. Heck, I didn’t even know he went on hiatus for a while, which explains a lot.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’ve become quite a fan. If I could, I feel like dropping by his studio and just have a chat someday. Of course, that’s quite a far-fetched fantasy and there’s already plenty of articles and interviews available online for me to see. I’m actually a bit surprised I haven’t yet read them given my desire to learn more about the artist himself.

Guess I was too busy listening to his work to even notice the option, which is the point I suppose, to study someone means to also look at the boring and mundane bits, not just the exciting, built for entertainment parts that everyone is ogling over. That’s what separates those who can study someone from those who are merely fans.