Podcasts: A different way to start your day

Photo Credit: Andrew Gustar Flickr via Compfight cc

Every morning, on our way to school or class, some of us like to ensconce ourselves in our world of music. I am no exception.

Earlier this year though, I discovered a new companion for my daily commutes – the podcast. Podcasts are a cross between the radio and the audio book. They come in the form of talk shows and documentaries that can be downloaded into your smartphone.

Certainly, it takes some time to get used to listening to podcasts on the go. After all, music is meant for our idle thoughts, while podcasts require a certain level of attention to what is being said. Our minds prefer to wander rather than to be focused at the start of a busy day. However, if you can overcome your initial doubts and misgivings, podcasts are an entertaining and enriching way to pass your time. There’s such a rich variety of themes being covered – running the gamut from pop culture to psychology – that you will surely find something that appeals to you.

The vast podcast selection may seem daunting for the uninitiated. Here are five recommendations I have to start you off:


For the Indecisive: TED Radio Hour


I’m sure many of you would have heard of the concept of TED talks, in which speakers from different fields give short yet punchy presentations to spread their ideas. The TED Radio Hour condenses the essence of these presentations into an hour-long show. Each week revolves around a different theme, from the motivational (wisdom at every stage of life) to the intriguing (what defines our being). It is a good starting point for people trying to get into the medium of podcasts as the information is translated into palatable and relatable bits that are easy to follow.


For the Story Lover: The Moth


The Moth is a platform for storytellers from all walks of life to recount their life experiences in a raw, visceral fashion. It’s always an emotional rollercoaster tuning in to every episode. We have the hilarious (the police officer who got locked in his patrol car when napping during his shift), the touching (how a hospitalized mum saved her son who got stung by a bee despite the physical distance), and even the completely ridiculous (the man who tried to conquer the English Channel in a bathtub). This is definitely recommended for those who love stories about the human experience.


For the Design Enthusiast: 99% Invisible


Why is ‘hostile’ architecture so prevalent in urban areas? What is the story behind the construction of Taipei 101? How does your burger look so appetising on the menu? If you are interested in knowing the hidden side of everyday design, 99% Invisible is definitely the podcast for you. Through interviews and archived recordings, the audience is made to ponder about things that often go unnoticed, but have a profound impact on how our world works. On average, each episode runs below thirty minutes, which makes it easy to listen to. If you get hooked, you can visit their large repository of backlogged episodes.


For the General Knowledge Buff: Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me


Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me is a long-running quiz show combining comedy and current affairs. In recent months, the US presidential campaign has produced plenty of story-worthy moments for the show to poke fun at. The hour-long show is divided into several game segments (you can read more about it on their official webpage), of which my favourite is the “Bluff the Listener” quiz. Every week, a listener will call in and be told three stories centered on wacky weekly themes such as politicians’ faux pas and incredulous attempts to revive print. It’s never an easy task for the listener to guess the true story when all three are equally crazy. For those who are well versed in their general knowledge, it will be great fun trying to guess along as the questions are being posed.


For the Mystery Seeker: Lore


Lore explores the dark recesses of human history. Sometimes paranormal, other times man-made, but it is always sinister. There are no jarring sound effects or pompous deliveries. The podcast often employs only soft, non-distracting atmospheric music and the narrator’s calm voice to great effect. The most memorable episodes include the tale of mischievous elves that sabotaged fighter jets during World War Two, and the chilling account of the Richmond vampire who emerged from the ruins of a tunnel after it caved in during a construction accident. Some of these stories may have been lost in translation over the years, but they still retain their mystical appeal. Each episode can be completed within thirty minutes, so if you are fascinated by the unknown, you can consider giving Lore a try.

Know any other podcasts you’d like to share? Leave a comment below or on our Facebook page!

Lim Teck Heng
I love a good metaphor.