My Favorite Austin Burgers

How do I judge a burger?

First thing I always do is eat just a piece of hamburger meat with nothing on it. Does the meat have its own flavor? Is it juicy? Is it cooked correctly at medium and no more than medium well (exception made for sliders)? Is the bun too dry or does it perform the job of sopping up juice and add flavor and depth to the burger? Does every burger a place offers taste good or only a single burger? If only a single burger, then that’s fine, but it does detract from being a “burger joint.”

There are a tons of great burger joints in Austin, but only a few were pure bliss, what I call the “hallelujah burger.” The burger that hits your mouth and sends you to that special place in your head where you’re at peace with yourself and everything around you. That place where if you were butter you would melt instantly and ooze all over the floor of the joint. There are also a lot of places that are not burger joints, but have a good burger. Those places had to really stand out to make my list, as I focused on places that catered to the burger lover in me.

NOTE: I fully acknowledge that taste is subjective. I don’t think judging a burger on the quality of the meat, how it’s cooked, if it’s juicy and has flavor on its own is subjective, but once you get past the meat and onto the bread, condiments, and add-ons, then you enter subjective taste. I fully expect people to disagree with my list and that’s perfectly okay. I encourage you to post your own top burgers!

The List

So here they are, from least to best (least being the wrong word to use here, since it did make my list):

But What About?

Where are the standard ones you see on so many Austin lists like Sandy’s, Hut’s, Dan’s, P Terry’s, etc? Well, they’re somewhere between Wendy’s and McDonald’s because they’re just sliders and mediocre ones at that: especially the exceptionally overrated P Terry’s.

So with that said, here’s are my favorite slider joints, which I’ll only eat at if I’m really hungry and they’re close by. Otherwise I’m heading to my tops above. This list is again least to best.

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The Problem With Plastic Straw Bans

Okay, so plastic straw bans are suddenly all the rage and quite a few people are lashing out in favor and against. But here’s the problem I see with this…

The plastic straw ban is really just political ass-kissing to shut my fellow liberals up. It doesn’t do a damn thing to stop the problem because a lot of my fellow liberals think these tiny battles are actually meaningful.

Hell, the plastic sippy cup style lids that are being used to replace straws (like at Starbuck’s) use more plastic to make than the regular plastic lids and straws they previously used. The problem isn’t straws: the symptom is plastic and the problem is human behavior.

When we realized lead was killing children we banned lead paint. When we realized asbestos was causing cancer we banned it. We can’t just ban all plastics as kneejerk emotional bullshit legislative action. We need to look at the entire problem and come up with solutions based on science and reason and critical thinking. Ban plastic where it can be banned without affecting people in negative ways. Keep it where it needs be to be kept, but work on solutions to removing plastic even where it’s currently still needed. For example, we clearly need plastic IV bags in hospitals. However, we used to use glass bottles for IVs. Can we go back to glass IV bottles? Is there the will to do that? Is the will there to do that for so many other examples as well?

There are a lot of replacements to straws already in place, such as metal straws being used in homes (we use them in our house) and in places with permanent residents (retirement homes, etc). A few restaurants have started using pasta straws as a replacement. Yes, pasta. And some of us are old enough to remember when straws were made of paper (granted, they weren’t the best, but I’m sure some human ingenuity could improve upon those old-fashioned paper straws).

Why can’t we go back to paper cups at fast food places and coffee shops? Why is my iced chai latte in a plastic cup instead of a paper cup? Why not offer me the option of bringing in my own cup and charging me by the ounce? Why not bring paper bags back to grocery stores? We don’t need plastic bags at grocery stores: we just want them.

People whined about killing trees for paper. We see all these companies bragging about saving paper (a public relations move, not an actual environmental saving move), but that’s non-scientific. Ninety-one percent of all paper products come from self-sustaining tree farms and “second growth” forests (forests that were cut down for other uses before and are being “recycled” instead of cutting down old growth. ONly 9% of paper comes from tearing down old growth forests and that can easily be stopped. Killing off paper is silly, especially since it’s biodegradable (yes, I fully acknowledge the paper-making process has its own issues that need to be resolved: especially the waste it makes). We replaced paper towels with air blowers in bathrooms, but those are electric and use more electricity from coal-based electricity production. But everyone was happy we got rid of paper in bathrooms. It’s kneejerk nonsense that’s not scientifically or rationally based.

Photo via USA Today

The reality is that if every bit of plastic ended up in properly maintained landfills there would be zero issue with plastic (especially landfills that reclaim methane buildup for energy usage). But the problem is people not disposing of them properly so they end up in the waterways and oceans killing animals: like that whale that died with almost 80 plastic bags in its stomach: literally died from starvation because there was no room left in its stomach for actual food. Or the video of the turtle with the straw stuck in its nose that caused so much outrage over straws while a gazillion plastic bags and plastic water bottles (a much bigger problem than straws) and six-pack beer rings are floating around the oceans killing animals as well.

There are solutions for this entire thing and one of the biggest ones is to get rid of our disposable attitudes toward everything from electronics to plates and cups to utensils, etc. We need to start repairing things that break instead of just tossing out that monitor or TV or phone and actually get it repaired instead of putting it in the garbage. We need to stop buying plastic and Styrofoam plates and cups and utensils.

Austin, Texas banned plastic bags for good reason a long time ago and recently the State of Texas overturned plastic bang bans via the Texas Supreme Court. It now won’t be long before plastic bags liter Austin’s streets again, getting into the sewers, finding their ways to the streams and rivers and out into the Gulf of Mexico. The reality is humans are the real problem: plastic in the waterways and oceans is just a symptom of human stupidity.

So because humans are too stupid or lazy or just don’t care to properly dispose of their waste so that it ends up in properly managed landfills, we now have to take drastic kneejerk reaction legislative measures. Humans are the problem: plastic in the waterways and littering our cities is just a symptom of that problem.

So how do we fix the real problem of human behavior? We can’t (at least not in terms of decades – just look at how long it took for the anti-smoking behavior modification to make a dent and people still smoke cigarettes). We can’t fix human behavior like that. So we have to accommodate it and come up with viable solutions and alternatives so that if human morons throw their trash into the street it doesn’t kill animals in the ocean or kill off coral reefs. We need a scientific and fact-based approach to this and kneejerk bans of straws are neither scientific nor fact-based and just a band-aid placed on a sucking chest wound of humanity.

Dear Fellow Liberals: Let’s Talk About Comedy

Dear fellow liberals,

We need to talk about comedy and jokes. Right now a good percentage of you are giving Conservatives a hard time about their feelings being hurt over Michelle Wolf’s material at the White House Correspondence Dinner. You are calling them hypocrites for being upset at her “vulgarity” and “being offensive” when they have spent the entire Trump campaign and presidency being both of those. You are calling them out for putting up with Trump’s offensive comments and behavior while they are now throwing a fit over Michelle’s comments. They should be called out for letting Trump get away with his actual vulgar comments and behavior while getting upset at Michelle’s non-vulgar comments (her use of the word pussy was clearly a reference to Trump – she wasn’t using it in her own vulgar way).

Michelle Wolf at the WHCD. (Photo by Cheriss May via Getty Images)

Let’s be honest: most liberals are being hypocrites here as well. How many times last year alone did the so-called liberal “social justice warriors” rail against a comedian? How many times did you personally get offended by a comedian after hearing about the “public outrage” in your Facebook feed? How many times was there public backlash against a comedian who made a gay joke? Who made a joke you found racist? Who made a joke about fat people (or skinny people) and liberals hated that body shaming stuff? Who made a joke about transgendered persons? Who made a joke about his girlfriend that liberals found sexist?

Of course Conservatives are upset. They are upset for the exact same reason you get upset when a comedian makes fun of your pet issue: be that LGBQT, obesity, mental illness, sexism, body shaming, etc.

This is what I refer to as the “It’s all funny until they make fun of me or my pet issue Syndrome.” You will sit there and laugh at the fat jokes and the jokes about the special needs kid, but then the comedian made a joke about a gay person! How dare he! That’s my pet issue! Now I’m going to rant and rave and call this comedian out for being a homophobic asshole!

So here’s an idea: stop getting butthurt by comedy. You cannot laugh at all the jokes except the ones that make fun of your personal pet issue. Comedy, by its nature, is offensive. You can sit there and say, “Not all jokes are offensive,” but what you mean is, “Not all jokes are offensive to me.” Just because YOU didn’t get offended doesn’t mean the joke isn’t offensive to someone or some ideology or some mindset. So chill out and let comedians do their thing without getting upset because they made fun of your personal issue.

I can hear it already, “But those jokes are different!” No. They’re not. They are only different in your head because you need them to be different to justify your hurt feelings. Laugh or don’t laugh. Then move the fuck on with your life.

If you’ve ever been upset in the past by a comedian’s joke and are now defending Michelle Wolf against upset Conservatives, then you are just as much a hypocrite as they are.

Top 30 Synth Albums of 2017

TOP 30 Synth-Based Albums/EPs from 2017!

This list was very hard to do. There were so many amazing albums, EP’s, and singles released in 2017. In order for an album to qualify, it had to be in my library. I get music a lot of ways. A lot of times promoters, record labels, and artists send me their music so I can play the music. A lot of times I have to buy the albums. Sometimes the artists offer the albums up for free on their web page, Bandcamp, or other sources.

All those sources resulted in having 4,396 unique album/EP/single entries from 2017 that I had to go through. That’s a daunting number and it should be noted that there’s no way I have all the new music released in 2017! There is no doubt in my mind that I missed some new music that may have ended up on this list if I had it in my library.

Narrowing the list down:

In order for an album to qualify it had to be new material from the musician/band. So the first thing I did was remove any remix albums. The second thing I did was remove any compilation/best of/greatest hits albums. The third thing I did was remove any singles where the song was part of a later or earlier album. Doing those three things dwindled the number of unique entries to 3,477. Still a daunting task.

Next step was to go through each of those almost 3,500 entries and rate them from 1 to 10. Then I deleted everything that I rated 8 or below. Entries required a 9 or 10 to make it to next round. This processes narrowed the unique entries to 76.

I then re-rated the remaining 76 entries with a much stricter ear. After the re-rating I removed anything below a 9. That left me with 47 unique entries. Then I had to do it again until I got down to 40 entries. At this point, removing anyone from the list physically hurt my heart. The amount of awesome goodness on that list of 47 and 40 was painful as I removed one after another.

Now that I had it down to 40, I had to remove 10 more, who are the honorable mentions. As hard as it was getting down to 40, removing those 10 more was even more difficult!

The Caveats:

  1. Music is subjective. There is a really good chance that your list would be completely different from mine. I did not use any criteria like record sales, listening stats, or anything that would require me to hire someone with a Master’s Degree in musicology.
  2. My criteria for the initial rating and re-rating was asking two simple questions:
    1. Do I want to listen to this album on repeat or just once and listen to a different album?
    2. Are the majority of the songs on the album listenable? The more I wanted to listen to an album on repeat and the more songs on it that were listenable, the higher the rating it got (weighted for singles and EP’s of course). Narrowing those down to just 40/30 was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be for sure.
  3. I am sure that I will get a lot of “But what about Band A and album B? How could you not list those?” See #1. Music is subjective to the listener.

There was a lot of amazing new music put out in 2017. Let’s hope 2018 is just as awesome!

2017 TOP 30 SYNTH-BASED ALBUMS (alphabetical order):

3FORCE — Resistance
3Teeth — _shutdown.exe_
AM Tierpark — Trashy Luxury
Angelspit — Black Dog Bite
Arian 1 — Signals
Blakk Glass — Trial EP
Christopher Anton — Connected
CRYSEHD — EP III
deZeption — Mature
Drab Majesty – The Demonstration
Elektrostaub — Birthday And Death
Funker Vogt — Code Of Conduct
Gary Numan — Savage: Songs From A Broken World
Grendel — Age Of The Disposable Body
Hexheart — Midnight On A Moonless Night
Lorelei Dreaming — Banshee
ManMindMachine — Point Of Departure EP
Missing in STARS — Echo Point
Night Drive — Night Drive
Priest — New Flesh
Reflection — Lumen EP
Schwarzschild — Radius
Stilz — Starcrash
T.O.Y — Pain Is Love
Telekon — Hope for Believers
Torul — Monday EP
Wiccid — By Design
William Control — Revelations: The White EP
Xenturion Prime — Humanity Plus
Zynic — Neon Oblivion

2017 SYNTH-BASED HONORABLE MENTIONS:

C-Lekktor — Out Of My Way
Crüxshadows, The — Astromythology
Dav Dralleon — Depths EP
Forces Of Light — Darklights
New Division, The — No Pride In Paradise EP
Orange Sector — Endzeit (Deluxe Edition)
Slave Republic — Songs For Sinners
Sonic Reunion — Turning Point
Vainerz — Patient
Watch Clark — First Week of Winter

Social Media Advice For Bands

I’ve been asked for advice now and then about certain social media activities for bands: sometimes from bands and sometimes from fans. I certainly don’t espouse myself to be some kind of expert. What I can say is that I have 30 years of experience running groups and doing social media outreach for organizations (majority non-profit). There are way too many things to cover and tons of nuance, so I’ve decided to do a list of ten things: things I’ve noticed pages (bands and non-bands alike) do or not do over the years. Take this for what it is: friendly advice from someone who wants you to succeed! Or ignore me completely. After all, in the long run, it is your page and your band and your decisions to make.

  1. Unless you have directly harmed someone (emotionally or physically) you should not apologize on your social media (or on stage for that matter). Having technical difficulties? Been absent a bit too long from your page? Post the wrong thing? Don’t apologize. Instead, thank people for their patience or understanding. What sounds better, “Sorry about the technical difficulties everyone” or “Hey, thanks for your patience as we get this sorted out!” Thanking your listeners/page visitors puts the ownership of being awesome on them. It let’s them know how appreciative you are for their behavior and not how apologetic you are for yours. Don’t say you’re sorry for not posting in a long time, instead thank your readers for their patience.
  2. Don’t put your personal drama on your band’s page. It sucks that your band is broke and can’t afford to pay the rent. It sucks that last night’s venue short-changed you or only let you perform for ten minutes instead of the planned thirty. We have all been there. Post that stuff on your personal page if you must, but your band page should not be where you are complaining about your personal life (even if it’s band-related). It’s not that people don’t care, per se, it’s that people have their own personal drama they are dealing with and the majority of the “that sucks” or “sorry to hear that” posts are just that: posts that are meaningless. Air that out with your friends on your personal page (or your actual real life friends) and not on your fans.
  3. Along the same lines as #2, do not talk smack about other bands on your page (or on stage). By all means call out egregious behavior like racism, homophobia, etc., but just because you don’t like a band doesn’t mean a damn thing to your fans. That only risks isolating some of your fans who do like the band your talking bad about. Music is mostly subjective and whether or not you like it does not mean others will not. For example, I would never say that a comedian is bad: I say instead (because it’s true), that the comedian is not funny to me. So I would never say that Band A sucks, just that Band A’s music doesn’t appeal to me or “it’s not my thing.”
  4. Make sure your About section is filled out as much as possible. Provide a link to your Bandcamp page or Soundcloud page or main web page. List your band members and what they do (keyboards, vocals, guitar, programming, etc). Specify your genre(s) and fill out the “bands you like” or “influences.” In the About section on Facebook, make sure you fill in a “username.” The username should cause your page to come up immediately. Have someone check for you who is not an admin. If they put in @bandabc and it comes up with six different pages, then you need to modify it. It amazes me how many bands don’t think about this. You want your fans and radio shows and DJs to tag your band and the easiest way to do that is to have an @username that definitely comes up with your band and not something else. You may have to modify it to @bandabcofficial or @bandabc.info or similar to get it to come up immediately in a tag. Play with it until someone can tag your band easily in Facebook. If you luck out and user FB “username” matches your Twitter handle: BONUS POINTS!
  5. If you’re going to use an image to bypass Facebook’s algorithm that forces you to “boost your post,” that’s fine, just don’t forget to include a direct link in the first comment. Don’t make your fans search for the event page or manually type in the web page that’s in the image.
  6. You don’t have to respond to every fan’s comment, but you should at least post in the thread where fans have commented. Something along the lines of “Thanks for all your feedback everyone” or “Keep the comments coming, we love and appreciate your input!” Even a simple “thanks” from you can make a fan’s day.
  7. If your band’s page is tagged by a radio show, DJ, magazine, or genre supportive social media group (the page itself, not readers or fans of that page), then you should at a minimum like their post. You should consider posting a “thanks” of some kind in the comments. You should definitely think about sharing their post: not just when it’s only about your band, but when your band is included among others. The scene is equally as important as your band. Without a scene, your band has no support network. Sharing this stuff introduces your fans to other bands and vice versa. It increases awareness of the scene and increases the fan base across the spectrum.
  8. Speaking of the scene, it is important that you support the scene. You are not an isolated band. If there are no other scene bands, no clubs, no scene fan groups, then there is no fan base for you. Don’t be afraid to tag other bands in the scene (especially if sharing a radio show or magazine that mentions them). Don’t be afraid to introduce your fans to other bands or share music you like that isn’t yours. Hopefully the band you tag is just as awesome as you are and will reciprocate.
  9. There is nothing wrong with posting things that aren’t “professional” if you are willing to engage your fans with fun things. Don’t post something like “What’s your favorite holiday meal” and then not interact with those who respond or not posting your favorite holiday meal as the first comment. It’s perfectly fine to have fun with your fans on your page and interact with them in ways other than sharing your videos or events. If you do, you need to actually interact with them. Don’t ask them to participate if you are not going to participate.
  10. Last, is politics/religion. There are definitely bands out there who are political in their stance and their lyrics and that’s perfectly okay. If you are not one of those bands then you need to weigh the risks of posting political or religious stuff on your band’s page. You risk isolating some of your fans. Obviously there are legitimate reasons to isolate some of your fans (like a band posting that anyone who is a racist should not be their fan), but if you’re not going after the big fish of racism, homophobia, etc., then be careful. Use your personal page for politics/religion unless you fully understand the ramifications and consequences of posting on your band’s page. I’m not saying don’t do it: what I’m saying is understand the fallout that can come from doing it.

Best of luck to all of you as your pursue your musical dreams. I want all of you to succeed. I want the scene to be stable and thriving and full of amazing talented folks! Keep making music. Keep doing what you’re doing! Keep the synth-based scenes alive!