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Bomb Garden 

by LUKE BAUMGARTEN & r & & r & Meditations on Sincerity & r & & r & The air was absolutely still. There were no clouds in the sky and the sun beat fully down upon me. The team was somewhere off in left field, near the bullpen, out of earshot from where I sat in the stands. It would have been perfectly silent in Pasco's Gesa Stadium -- serene in a fever-dream kind of way -- if Hootie & amp; the Blowfish's "I Only Wanna Be With You" hadn't suddenly come blaring from the tinny ballpark speakers.

A family feast night intruded on my brain-space. I was like, "Damn, I'm trying -- really hard -- to ponder Class A minor-league baseball over here." Family feast night didn't care. The hits kept coming -- Brian Adams, Bush, the Verve Pipe -- so I just went with it. Some of the cuts held up really well, even decades after I'd first heard them. Jamiroquai's "Canned Heat." The Spin Doctors. Midnight Oil. That Blur song where all Damien Albarn says is "Woo Hoo" and mumbles a lot.

A lot of it deserved to be junked. Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer" is Springsteen pose with no heart. "Lump" by the Presidents of the USA is so cloying I can't even type about it without throwing up. Even the Strokes -- who I drove across Italy to see in 2002 -- nauseate me.

The really crass stuff I totally fell for as a kid -- New Kids on the Block's "Hanging Tough" for one -- was meaningless to me now. "Amber" by 311, though, sounded surprisingly good to me. For reasons that stretch deeeeeeep into the socio-political climate of my eighth-grade year, I've never allowed myself to listen to 311. I've also never passed up an opportunity to mock other people for listening to 311. And yet here I was, humming along to their hippie-ish sentiments about auras and free love, too assed-out on pop reverie to realize that I probably had heatstroke.

The music of 311 just sounds sincere. So does Jamiroquai's. I have no idea what Damien Albarn is saying most of the time, but he says it with such conviction that it's hard not to be moved.

I've been talking on and off with friends and colleagues about what makes music eternal. Why can we listen to Bach or the Beatles today and still be moved while Uffie leaves my radar 10 minutes after hearing "Pop the Glock"? I haven't figured out the answer yet, but after that day at Gesa Stadium, I think sincerity is a good place to start.
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