A Helpful Guide to Reading Baboon Shavin’ Tunes

(Originally ran on April 5th, 2004 as "How to enjoy your column-reading experience")

Few things can match the experience of reading a good newspaper column. The birth of your first child, your wedding day, or maybe the memory of your first bowl of good chili come close.

But you say, "Josh, you self-indulgent twerp, I’ve never felt this kind of joy from your column. How dare you compare yourself with the birth of my son Phil, let alone Mama’s chili?"

Well, most people don’t realize that there is a complex science behind proper column reading. Most just kick back on the nearest couch, shuttle bench, or lawn gnome, meander through a paragraph or two, and, if the writer is lucky, finish the column before having to use the bathroom.

But if you take the following instructions into consideration, your column-reading experience will provide more warmth and joy than a pair of pants fresh from the dryer.

The key is to create the proper atmosphere. This includes managing factors such as lighting, furniture, and especially music. Proper execution can have a profound effect on your experience, but misuse can lead to tragic content misinterpretations.

Let’s give this a try. Read the following passage while sitting on a couch in a room lit with a standard 75-watt bulb:

"An AP story reports that last week some conservation officers in Hong Kong chased a wild monkey into this lady’s house. It destroyed a TV, some furniture, and poured Hawaiian Punch all over a stack of Curious George books."

Not bad, eh? But this time, try it while riding a mechanical bull in a padded room lit by a strobe light and a disco ball!

Vive le Difference!*

Now, lighting and room décor can certainly enhance your reading experience, but nothing can augment a column like background music. If you want to bring Dave Barry to life, you should never read his stuff without a copy of Richard Marx’s "Repeat Offender" album playing at full blast. Art Buchwald sounds like an old fogey unless you read him to the sounds of Gwar, and you shouldn’t even bother reading Robert Kirby without the complete original cast recording of "Cats" at your disposal.

For Baboon Shavin’ Tunes, I recommend the work of George Clinton and Bootsy Collins in Parliament/Funkadelic. If you don’t have that on hand, a dazzling effect can be created with the ethereal sounds of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass.

But pick the wrong soundtrack, and your reading experience could prove disastrous. The wrong music can lead to horrible misinterpretations of column content, and may even result in criminal activity. The following study demonstrates the various interpretations that can result from reading under the influence.

Mr. Heinz Kooper of Momence, Illinois, read the following passage on separate occasions, each time with a different selection of mood music. After the reading, Mr. Kooper was asked to record his thoughts.

"The AP also reports the existence of the Hoof Trimming Association in Missoula, Montana . They give bovine pedicures. You know, whenever I show up at somebody’s house and they ask me to take my shoes off, I get kind of nervous. Now, if I bring a cow, at least I know she’ll be covered."

This is what Mr. Kooper wrote while listening to the Beach Boys’ song, "Kokomo":

"A fascinating concept, this bovine pedicure. I wonder if the procedure could be adapted to other domestic animals, such as the Cockatiel or the Orangutan."

This is what Mr. Kooper wrote while listening to Billy Ray Cyrus’ "Boot Scoot Boogie":

"Infernal cows. I hate them. Why do they deserve preferential treatment? Maybe if I had udders I could get some spineless beauty school dropout to waste an hour on my pretty little toes. What a load of crap. Where’s my gun?"

Finally, Mr. Kooper’s reaction while listening to the Rev. Al Sharpton beating a slab of cement with a waffle iron:

"I think Mr. Terry is saying that we as a capitalistic society are at risk of a permanent separation from traditional Judeo-Christian virtues, and that our only means of redemption will by necessity be achieved through a comprehensive reification of our concept of both self and other. If we examine the lyrics to Culture Club’s ‘Karma Chameleon’–(edited for space)"

The evidence speaks for itself. If you want to get the most out of Baboon Shavin’ Tunes, the power is truly in your hands.

*French expression, roughly translated as: "Wow, the headache induced by the painful combination of strobe lighting and disco ball distortion has vastly improved Josh’s diction, timing, and sensitivity! I’m going to vote for Ralph Nader!"