Misery Loves Netflix

“So can you handle that?”

“Just run it by me one more time.”

“You’ll have to mark the breaks between words, like before…”


“Right, but it’ll just be your voice.”

I have been doing research for a phonetician at the university. For the most part I have found the research very interesting and the professor is extremely open and helpful. This is a great deal different from professors many of us have experience with, who not only have trouble bridging the gap between their content and the students, but cannot conceive how everyone in his class is not fully fluent with their course material. There have been some dry articles that made me want to build a bridge just so I could jump off of it, but that’s all part of the joys of academia.

Part of that research has been listening closely to people speaking and marking where they take breaths. This more current task is to mark where they pause. These can be virtually imperceptible and rather difficult to pick ups, so a close focus on the speakers is necessary.

Until today, it has been speakers I did not know. Nameless and faceless men and women whose only important features as far as I was concerned were how much they said in between breaths. But now it’s me. Two hours of listening closely to my own voice and trying to mark borders instead of gouging my ears with a pencil.

I asked the professor if listening to his own voice drove him mad. He nodded in a commiserative way and said, “Not anymore. I’m used to it by now.”

I came home and did what I often do when trying to get through my daily trials: I found someone who has it worse. In this case it was a bunch of Vikings.

Vikings is a great show if you want to see people being miserable. First off, it’s not for sticklers for nonviolent conflict resolution. The show makes me so happy to live in a (mostly) civilized society and not one ruled by violence. Unless you were another Viking, if you lived in Britain in the 9th century, you had a good chance of being killed by a Viking. And we’re talking about killed in the most violent manner possible. Additionally, life itself seemed to be pretty unpleasant. I think everyone had hemorrhoids, lice, and sores all over their bodies. Everything was dirty and there was little chance of starting the morning with a super hot shower. How human beings ever existed without being able to take a piping hot shower in the morning is beyond me.

I watched two episodes of Vikings, and, asserting my manhood, ate a pork chop sloppily. Vindicated, I got to work. As the first syllables of my speech croaked out at me, I remembered with horror that not only was I about to hear my voice for an hour, but I was going to hear it speaking Czech.

This time I watched the first half of Full Metal Jacket, during which a bunch of marines are preparing for combat in Vietnam by going through boot camp. It’s hard to imagine a group of people more miserable than one being stabbed by a Viking in 793 A.D. but I’m pretty sure the guys in Parris Island could give them a run for their money. san episode of the Band of Brothers. Bolstered by the misery of these men, I went back to work for thirty minutes.

I really don’t like stories of misery, much preferring to watch a comedy than a depressing movie about people’s lives falling apart. But this was about perspective, so I needed to see other people suffer. When my mispronunciation of the Czech Ř became too much to bear I opted for The Shining. A supernatural hotel mentally dismantling an alcoholic in a frozen tundra. Yes, please. The slippery slide of the character into insanity and paranoia that leads him to try and kill his family resolved me enough to get another fifteen minutes or so done. By the time I was on my fourth try at pronouncing the name of a famous Czech athlete, I gave in and switched over to Netflix.

Broadchurch. Ooh, murder.

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