Bill Nowicki of “Submarine Stories”

Bill Nowicki’s Submarine Stories is a new podcast about life aboard a submarine during the Cold War. Bill interviews fellow submariners, and recounts (in rich detail) the often humorous, sometimes disturbing, reality of spending months at a time in an underwater vessel. With show titles like, KGB Stalker and Drunk on Grapes, listeners have come to expect the details, worts and all. For example, did you know fresh air smells like a toilet after you’ve been in a sub for months? Bill revealed that and more to me when we chatted this week about “the tube” and why he chose podcasting to explore his past.

Submarine Stories

So what is it like to “spend the cold war under water with 100 other guys”?

Very different than real life. We were young, lonely, stressed, tired, working hard, and [eventually] very bored. We learned to find people’s hot buttons very quickly. It was very important not to show weakness or be jumpy. For example, one of the first times underwater, one of the machinists grabbed me and gave me a big kiss. If I would have pulled away or tightened up, he would have done it every time he saw me. So a lot of times you did the opposite of the way you felt to make sure it did not happen again. That was one of those times.

Also, the cold war was very real. The ability to stay quiet was paramount, we felt we had the quietest subs in the world which gave us a great advantage to do the types of things we did. It almost felt like a really long game of hide and seek in the dark…

When and how was the podcast born?

I have been listening to podcasts for several years. I listened to Adam Carolla, The Moth, Snap Judgment, and a couple of entrepreneur ones like The Unmistakeable Creative and Inspiring Innovation. At around the same time, I started seeing a career coach who I shared some ideas with me, especially around videos and learning to speak better in public and find my voice. He told me I should hang around like-minded people, so I sent an email to Meron Bareket of Inspiring Innovation, and he emailed me back. I thought a great way to reach people is to do a podcast. I also loved telling [stories about life at sea].

Meron allowed me to join his Beta testers for his Podcast Bootcamp … This ended up being the turning point. I set a date for launch, April 1st; Braden Sweeten in Utah did my logo; Matt Young in England did my intro voice over and several others helped me setup my website.

With a little marketing help fro Meron, it was “New and Noteworthy” in iTunes. I actually made it to 100 in all categories podcasts at one point. (If others want to sign up, contact me I will get them started.)

You went super niche with this show, but it has broad appeal somehow. Well done. Are you starting see a bump in your non-Navy listenership?

Yes. I think people are fascinated with submarines and the Cold War. I also think I have had some great guests who really bring make the life aboard a submarine real. My guests explain things that help dispel myths: the food is actually great, for example.

I never will forget the smell of fresh air after being underwater for 74 days–smelled like someone just did number two in the bathroom and you walked in. Sorry, it’s the truth. The air is so purified, regular air smells horrible! My second episode, Jody Durham talks about driving the boat as the first watch station after he arrived on board. He saw a buddy on leave who said he was driving a $100 K tractor and Jody told him, he was driving a $1 billion sub!

What movie do you think depicts submarine life most accurately?

I LOVE Das Boat. I could not imagine what those guys went through on the WW2 boats, but the scenes where it is hot and smelly, you could almost feel it. The other popular ones were too Hollywood to me. Plus, I would always notice the mistakes and couldn’t really concentrate on the story. I do love Gene Hackman’s character in Crimson Tide. I interviewed a ballistic missile submariner, and he said you could never really consider the implications of actually firing nuke warheads–too scary. That was an interesting episode.

If you could tell only one of your personal submarine stories what would it be?

Despite the perception people have of the military back then, we had a guy who was openly gay on board. He was actively pursuing getting a sex change (he told some of the guys) and was applying some kind of medication to get his chest to sprout boobs. I think the only reason we kept him/her was we did not have a replacement for his job. This was long before “don’t ask/don’t tell.” Man, what a great interview–if I could find her.

What’s the rest of 2014 looking like for Submarine Sea Stories?

The next episode is a very powerful one and a departure from the normal format. I interview two brothers who came from an alcoholic family and how they felt safe on the submarine. Crazy stuff. As for the rest of the year, I’m just seeing what happens next. I’m trying to find women submariners, and some Russian submariners for obvious reasons.

GoodStuff.fm’s Chris Enns

chris ennsChris Enns hosts multiple podcasts, so many in fact he had to start his own network: Goodstuff was launched by Enns, Adam Clark, and Tim Smith in early 2014. The programing comfortably inhabits the sweet spot between technology and culture without alienating non-techs or indoor kids — to borrow a term. Enns put the mic away for a few minutes last week to talk to me about himself and his role in the “podcast boom.”

Tell me a little about yourself, career, hobbies, origins, etc.

I’m a guy who has loved technology in various forms for most of my life – from begging my dad to buy a computer to play King’s Quest, building my own PC to play Castle Wolfenstein, running digital hockey drafts with whoever I could beg to join me to recording music, podcasts and video production – I’ve loved being involved in and using technology to be creative.

In a more practical sense, I’m a husband to my beautiful wife for 15 years in 2014 and father to three kids. They are the reason I’m trying to build a business and lifestyle that allows me to see them off to school, help out at home and in general be around as much as possible.

As a web devel­oper, you’ve said you love helping get technology out of the way of people accomplishing things. How does podcasting play into that ethos?

That’s one of the great problems facing podcasting in 2014 (and beyond): how to get normal, everyday folks into podcasting without the difficultly. It’s something we’re thinking about constantly at Goodstuff. But in the meantime, having interesting discussions about technology in a way that’s interesting to people and helps them disseminate what’s worth looking into or worth skipping, whether it’s a new Apple product or a movie that’s just came out, is all part of that ethos.

Exactly how many podcasts are you currently producing and would you mind breaking them down for me?

http://goodstuff.fm/dailyishDaily(ish) is my personal podcast that I do. 10 minutes or less. More of a podcast playground for me to mess around with formats and ideas.

http://goodstuff.fm/smymShow Me Your Mic is a podcast where I interview other podcasters. It started as a way to geek out about gear, but it’s turned into more of a discussion about the why’s behind podcast.

http://goodstuff.fm/tirpThe Intellectual Radio Program is a fun discussion show I do with Adam Clark and Tim Smith, my co-founders of Goodstuff. We talk about some of the usual geeky stuff (Apple, tech, etc.) but also push ourselves into other areas such as work/life balance, future planning, money, and rants about life.

http://goodstuff.fm/nbspThe Non-Breaking Space show is a podcast that my primary role has been of intro-voice-guy and editor. It talks to the best and brightest folks on the web about how and why they do what they do with a focus on web developers, designers, content strategists and other folks involved in creating the sites we all use.

http://www.ssktn.com/category/lal/Lost & Lemon is a fun show I do with my brother-in-law where we talk about our respective businesses that we’re building as well as family life, creative life and surfing life (him, not me).

I think that’s it? I feel like I’m forgetting something but that’s a lot of stuff.

New media is probably one of the most ephemeral disciplines people have ever claimed expertise in; What do you see your core capabilities as and how do you apply them to what you do every day?

Yeah it’s tough to figure out what to call yourself these days when everything changes so quickly. I don’t know if “new media” is a good term or not for what we do. I really enjoy dabbling in audio and video and so working on the web is a natural canvas for those disciplines these days. The instant feedback (or lack thereof) is almost an addictive drug for the creative side of my brain.

Where do see podcast in general in two years?

I see it shrinking and growing as most things do – similar to the way blogging has. There will be the core group of people who continue to podcast (or whatever it becomes called) no matter what – but I see a large number of shows disappearing in a year or two simply because people will run out of things to say or people to interview. We’re in the middle of a bit of a boom right now where everybody and their dog seems to have a podcast which is great for the industry. It helps us all figure out what’s working, what’s not and what we need to change in order to grow. Growing not necessarily in number but in quality and listenership.

Sponsorship of podcasts is another whole beast. As the quality of shows increases, and hopefully the listenership follows then you’d think the sponsorship dollars should flow as well. But imagine if Squarespace decides to stop sponsoring podcasts? There’s certainly other companies that would take its place in some form, but the sheer number of podcasts Squarespace supports right now is mind boggling. I really like what Lex Friedman and the folks at The Midroll (http://www.themidroll.com) are doing.

What shows are you listening to these days?

The Talk Show, Accidental Tech Podcast, Mac Power Users, Back to Work, CMD+Space, The Incomparable, The Fizzle Show, Shawn Today, Shop Talk, DLC with Jeff Canata, Hired – and of course everything on Goodstuff.fm.

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Follow Chris on Twitter @iChris

Monstercat Podcast

This entire article is going to have a real “old people be hatin'” vibe. Fair warning.

I don’t listen to music podcasts really. It doesn’t align itself with the medium in my opinion. And here’s something else about me you probably couldn’t care less about: I don’t get EDM. Not a dancer. Getting pretty old. Don’t lose myself in the rhythm or subscribe to MDMA culture. BUT…

monstercast

I like to keep my options open. I like to listen to new things; so I decided to check out Monstercat Podcast, a popular show espousing the wonder and magic of electronic dance music. Sigh.

Monstercat Podcast is a weekly show featuring non-stop dance music mixes. It’s supposedly  “Perfect to get you hyped for the weekend.”

“Taking you on a journey” comes in over the electro-saturated bumper music at the show’s onset. Then the music starts. And as far as I can tell the music doesn’t stop, so no false advertising on that front. I’d be out of my depth critiquing the quality of these “songs”. I haven’t listened to enough to be critical. What I can rant about is the genre as a whole.

So the kids love this shit, and traditionally history has sided with the kids on a particular genre’s viability. After all, it was the kids who championed hip-hop, rock ‘n’ roll, jazz, and punk rock. And that stuff’s great, isn’t it? Maybe. Maybe not. Perhaps that stuff resonates because it’s fans aged out the detractors. There’s no one left to hate on it. Today’s 70 somethings grew up on rock ‘n’ roll. The people who called it ‘noise’ aren’t around anymore to point out its flaws.

My guess is today’s generation of EDM enthusiasts will be able to reconcile the rainbow face paint and the brogressive fist pumping. The pacifiers and the Vick’s inhalers will also get there due I assume. And in 25 years, EDM will see cultural comeuppance.

But I just don’t get it. It sounds soooo cheap. Like jokey cheap. I understand why someone may get a thrill from the driving thump that follows the pregnant “drop” in every EDM set. But what else is there? Other than it goes well with the drugs.

I hear no adversity. No angst. No counter-cultural flavor. And if a blaring absence of edge and vim makes for a good Friday night these days when you’re 20, who am I to judge. But I liked scarey music when I was a kid. I wanted it to piss people off. And after listening to Monstercat Podcast, I am far from pissed. Or intrigued. Or “hyped for the weekend.”

To quote  The Miami New Times: It ain’t easy being hard when you’re rolling face, hugging a Care Bear.