The Movie Diary
November 8, 2017

Music to my ears

By Dom Cioffi

We just made the giant step of purchasing a desk and chair set for our son’s bedroom. And I already regret it.

Up until recently, my son has always done his nightly homework at the kitchen table, right within eyesight of his mother and me. Questions generally abound when it comes to his studies so having him camped out anywhere else isn’t logistically smart. At least that’s the argument I’ve always made whenever he’s expressed interest in moving his study area elsewhere.

But my son’s persistence in insisting on a desk in his room was finally appeased last weekend when we purchased a fairly decent set at a local furniture store. And it took all of one week for me to determine that this was an ill-conceived decision.

First of all, any time a question has arisen, he didn’t think to come downstairs, he simply yelled for one of us to make the trip up. And then, since the bed was so close, he decided that would be a more comfortable spot to do his reading, which resulted in me finding him asleep twice in the first week. And finally, when I did check on him and he was actually studying, he had headphones on blasting rap music directly into his brain.

We’ve never allowed him to listen to music while trying to complete homework, but he’s suddenly determined that hip hop actually helps him focus.

I might fall for that if he was listening to something ethereal or soothing, but I don’t buy it when it comes to rap music turned up so loud that I can hear it drifting out of his headphones. Not to mention, when I stand outside his door, I can here him singing along to the lyrics.

I’ve tried using logic to make him understand that your brain can’t focus on two things at once; that while you’re memorizing lyrics, you’re probably not doing a very good job memorizing math equations. But, like all highly evolved teenagers, he understands the human brain and the functions of life much better than I do.

I tried to have him listen to some Enya (that’s what we always used as our background homework music in college), but he scoffed at it, claiming it gave him a headache. He then launched into an argument with me, claiming that he can focus better when the music gets louder.

I finally gave up and resorted to a clear ultimatum: If your grades drop in any way, the desk – and all applicable distractions – are gone and you’re back to the kitchen for studying.

The music argument is tough for me because I listen to tunes all day at work. And the reality is, I would be miserable without it. But I don’t listen to it loud and I don’t engage in karaoke while trying to get my projects done. In the context of work, music is how I set my mood and how I navigate my way through the day.

When I first arrive in the mornings, I almost always put on piano music, either classical or contemporary selections from the likes of Mozart and Bach or soft piano tracks from the American Songbook.

As the morning progresses, I’ll work my way into peppier selections from my jazz playlist. These can range from Thelonious Monk to Dave Brubeck to Charlie Parker.

By mid-day, I’m all about classic rock, relying on old standbys from Lead Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and the Beatles with consistent nods to artists from my favorite decade: the 70s.

When I return from lunch, I usually resort to my “Recent Discoveries” playlist where I have an evolving set of songs that are new to my collection. These are usually selections from obscure bands or deep tracks from known artists that I previously passed over like “Darling Be Home Soon” by the Lovin’ Spoonful and “Cough Syrup” by Young the Giant.

By the end of the workday, I’m a bit tired and easily agitated by drive-time traffic so I tend to lean toward less musical fare like podcasts about current events or other interesting subject matter just to keep me focused.

I’m not sure what the main character in this week’s feature, “The Foreigner,” used to keep his focus, but I doubt it was music. Starring Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan, “The Foreigner” is a contemporary action thriller pitting a humble businessman against the corrupt powers of an unrelenting government official intent on keeping him placated after the death of his daughter.

It seems that ever since Liam Neeson made it viable to portray a vendetta-fueled senior citizen, every aging actor is contemplating this as a career move. And while Neeson set the bar for this emerging genre, Chan did a respectable job reaching up for it.

Give this one a shot if you’re willing to believe a near-retiree can withstand punches to the head and tumbles off roofs. With a little suspension of disbelief, this film may keep you entertained enough to have a good time.

A harmonic “C” for “The Foreigner.”

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