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Courtesy of KVUE

KVUE — There are new residents at the Austin Nature and Science Center: a prickle of baby porcupines.

The prickle — which is a group of three or more porcupines — has taken up residency in the newly renovated Small Worlds Exhibit at the center, located at 2389 Stratford Drive.

The real stars of the show are the two porcupettes, or baby porcupines, now living in the exhibit. Although these new additions are very young, porcupines have lifespans of upwards of 23 years, so they will be long-term residents.

The general public will be allowed to view the porcupettes in all their cute glory when they officially debut on September 18, which is also Austin Museum Day. Until then, allow them to quickly waddle — which is the fastest they can run — their way into your heart!

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Read the full story and watch the cute video on KVUE.com.

Drought uncovers ancient dinosaur tracks at famous Texas park

Dinosaur News

Ancient dinosaur tracks were uncovered in a famous Texas park: The tracks, dating back approximately 113 million years, were discovered in a dried-out riverbed at Dinosaur Valley State Park, 54 miles southwest of Fort Worth, on August 18.

The tracks were revealed due to the drought. Under normal weather conditions, they would have remained hidden underwater, as they have for these many decades. But thanks to climate change, patches of the Paluxy River, which runs through the park, dried out completely. According to park officials, it brought the tracks to light.

Sadly for dino fans, it's fleeting: With the rains crossing Texas this week, the tracks are anticipated to soon (maybe already) be buried again.

"While these newer dinosaur tracks were visible for a brief amount of time, it brought about the wonder and excitement about finding new dinosaur tracks at the park," said a park spokesperson in a statement. "Dinosaur Valley State Park will continue to protect these 113-million year-old tracks not only for present, but future generations."

The tracks are believed to belong to the Acrocanthosaurus, a dinosaur that would stand about 15 feet tall and weigh nearly seven tons. The other species found at the park is the Sauroposeidon, a much larger dinosaur at 60 feet tall and weighing about 44 tons.

Park rangers at Dinosaur Valley State Park caution that the visibility of any dinosaur tracks depends on how much rain the area receives. If you go there, you may not see these tracks. You probably won't see these tracks.

The tracks have made international news, after a group called the Friends of Dinosaur Valley State Park posted photos showing a clean-up of the space. The discovery has been covered by CNN, the BBC, and major networks. Everyone loves dinosaurs.

Photo courtesy of The Cathedral and Ventana Ballet

Popular dance collaboration Night Birds migrates back to Austin

Nocturnal Dances

Which birds fly together for two nights each year? In Austin, it’s “Night Birds — An Intimate Celebration of Art + Dance.” Coworking and event space The Cathedral and local dance company Ventana Ballet are collaborating for the second year of the dance showcase, taking place September 22 and 23.

Each of the dances on the program is named for a nocturnal bird, with interpretive choreography to represent their beauty and nature. From the 360-degree performance space, the show becomes as immersive as actually interacting with nature, without confining dancers to any one piece of stage. At this East Austin venue, a refurbished 1930s church, any show looks immaculate, not least ballet performances at sundown and once dark has settled in.

The heads of both collaborating organizations, Cathedral and atxGALS founder Monica Ceniceros and Ventana director AJ Garcia-Rameau, are Latinas whose collectives share a vision of greater accessibility in art, making this an especially harmonious collaboration during Hispanic Heritage Month.

Three cellists will play the night away as the six dancers perform, this year to scores by Hispanic composers including early 20th century Spanish cellist Gaspar Cassadó and contemporary Spanish cellist Pablo Ferrández, whose “El Cant del Ocells (Song of the Birds)” deepens the performance’s commitment to the theme. From a popular performance at last year’s show, Nightingales reprise their dance to Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” arranged for cello instead of the usual piano by Austin chamber musician Cory Blais.

Surrounding the main performance, as is common for Cathedral events, will be visual art from emerging women and nonbinary artists. A complimentary cocktail bar with night bird-themed recipes features products from local distilleries and breweries.

Following the 2021 format, there are four shows in total over the two days: one from 6-8 pm, and one from 9-11 pm. The show begins 30 minutes after doors open and includes a 10-minute intermission. Tickets (starting at $45) are available on Eventbrite.

Photo by Brianna Caleri

Austin crawls to No. 4 spot in ranking of buggiest U.S. cities

News on the Fly

There’s some buzz going around Texas: Houston may not be the buggiest city. Thumbtack, a home management app that connects owners with service providers, took note of its bug-related service requests, and ranked Austin the fourth buggiest city in the United States, followed by Houston at No. 5. Dallas made the top slot, if you can call that making it.

A quick note about methodology: Austin may be more bugged by insects than buggy overall. This data came entirely from consumers on Thumbtack, requesting “pest control, pest inspection, bed bug extermination, and outdoor pesticide application.” Those numbers were adjusted for population and ranked across an unspecified number of states. If Austin has fewer bugs than Houston, it just wants to get rid of them more.

Thumbtack calculated a national average of $50-200 per household on extermination services, but before spending that, residents can consider cheap, nontoxic solutions like diatomaceous earth (fossilized plankton) and neem oil. Be gentle on spiders and pollinators — which includes lots of flying insects that aren’t bees — and don’t panic when the heat sends a few more buggies into your air-conditioned home.

“Keep bugs out all summer by turning on a dehumidifier, eliminating standing water in your yard and garden and by keeping screenless windows shut,” said Thumbtack home expert David Steckel in a press release. Bug control doesn’t always mean waging war, either. “Hiring a bug control professional can help identify areas for improvement and provide you with regular maintenance to avoid problems down the line.”

The Top 10 Buggiest Cities in the U.S., according to Thumbtack, are:

1. Dallas
2. Atlanta
3. Washington, D.C.
4. Austin
5. Houston
6. Miami-Fort Lauderdale
7. West Palm Beach, Florida
8. Baltimore
9. Orlando, Florida
10. Tampa, Florida

Texas towns are slightly outnumbered by those in Florida on the list, yet Texas still fell far below Florida on a CNBC list of best places to live, where the Lone Star State ranked second-to-last. Austin is also known for its naked gardening, according to Lawn Starter, so if this isn’t enough incentive to cover up, let this study be a hint to keep that aloe growing.

Photo courtesy of Austin Animal Center

Austin Animal Center seeks fosters and adopters as eviction cases rise

Find your furry friend

KVUE — An already overcrowded Austin Animal Center is again asking for the public's help and is encouraging those willing to foster or adopt pets in need.

Over the weekend, the shelter took in more than 40 small dogs after their owner was reportedly evicted from their residence.

"We are incredibly grateful to our rescue partners who stepped up to take the majority of them — all have been now been placed or adopted," the shelter wrote in a Facebook post.

Austin Animal Center said it has been seeing an increase in surrender requests due to Austin-area evictions.

"As the municipal shelter for the City of Austin and unincorporated Travis County, we MUST find space for cases like these," the shelter wrote. "Today we started at 142 percent capacity for dogs … we need fosters and adopters to help keep kennels open for evictions, court cases and cruelty cases."

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Read the full story and watch the video on KVUE.com.

Photo courtesy of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge

How Austin's new cat cafe wants to change what pet adoption looks like

Neighborhood Purrveyors

Watch your step when you walk into the newest cafe, Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, on South Lamar. Staffed by about a dozen friendly cats, there’s always someone underfoot, lounging on a fuzzy surface, or scaling the obstacle course on the walls. They mill about the pillow-lined room with lots of cat toys and snoozing stations, choosing their favorite human visitors from whom to demand attention and scritches.

Because cats aren’t exactly hard workers, Purr-fecto Cat Lounge’s drinks are made and delivered by Irie Bean, the coffee shop next door. While sipping a kitty-themed drink (the hot “Choco-cat” or “Cat’s Pajama” latte), visitors can get acquainted with the adoptable residents on loan from the Sunshine Cat Fund Rescue and Fuzzy Texan Animal Rescue.

Owner Lupita Foster wants people to spend more time getting to know cats before adopting them. She saw the effects firsthand when her fiancé fell in love with their shelter cat, Romeo, while the couple was volunteering. Romeo had been called the “problem child” and barred from meeting people because he was too territorial. But as the pair spent time with him, they found his sassy attitude more charming than they could have guessed, eventually taking him in as their own.

“Here you're going to be able to see — kind of like speed dating — who you're vibing [with], and who you've got a crush on,” says Foster. “Maybe you’ve got a crush on one, but she's not vibing with you.”

The vibes must have been immaculate during opening week; five cats have already been claimed by Friday, July 22, going home with their crushes as soon as the application is approved or boarding at the lounge until things are ready at home. One such cat, a melty black and white kitten named Zobby, clicked with a visitor right away, and is enjoying a little more time with his brother until he departs. Zobby is a charmer, and even though other people have asked to adopt him, Foster respects the bond between the original pair.

Although, obviously, the goal is a perfect meet-cute, hanging out in real life also ensures cats don’t go home with the wrong people. One visitor came in specifically to see Ice Man, a five-toed black kitten always on the move, but realized she (Oops! Not all ice men are men!) was too skittish to live in an apartment with her dog. Even though Ice Man didn’t get adopted, she gets love and attention from other visitors until her time to shine comes. And the hopeful adopter will keep stopping by until she meets a perfect match.

“The idea of this cafe was for them to find a home. But also, if not, to get a lot of love,” says Foster. “You're going to have a lot of people that want to cuddle with them. She's enjoying that you're petting her, and that's going to make her day.”

Visitors book by time slot, with no advance notice necessary, and since the lounge leaves the adoption paperwork to the rescue organizations, it runs on affordable booking fees. Hanging out with cat friends supports the business just as much as taking them home. To encourage more of that community-space feeling, Purr-fecto will soon offer yoga (August 13 in partnership with Oak + Lotus Yoga), painting, and actual speed dating for cat lovers who want to make sure their date will appreciate their fuzzy roommates at home. The space is also slated to open up to kids younger than 3, as soon as Foster can make sure everyone is handling the cats safely.

“New York has many [cat cafes]. Dallas has many, San Antonio has many, and we didn't have any,” says Foster. “This will be the perfect space for all these kitties to have opportunities just like Romeo had. We gave it to him because we were there the whole time.”

Purr-fecto Cat Lounge is located at 2300 S. Lamar Blvd., Unit 104. Memberships and appointments (starting at $15) with or without intent to adopt are available at purrfectocatlounge.com.

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H-E-B unveils merch for super fans, plus more hot Austin headlines

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. Here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. H-E-B unveils merchandise for brand super fans, available exclusively at one store. Kerrville was chosen to launch the company's new line of H-E-B-branded merchandise in celebration of its 117th anniversary.

2. Austin bar transforms into a magical winter wonderland this holiday season. Don your favorite elf socks and meet the lovely citizens of “Tinseltown.”

3. Draft 'Vision Plan' for Zilker Park unveils land bridge and more possibilities. Austinites are invited to comment on a vision plan that will inform the future of Zilker Park.

4. Austin ranks among world’s 100 best cities in prestigious new report. Austin is the No. 43 best city in the world, according to a new study. (And yes, we beat Dallas.)

5. Austin airport launches new SkySquad travel assistants in time for the holiday rush. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is keeping lines moving during a period of heavy travel with a new team of airport assistants.

Steven Spielberg opens up personal history in The Fabelmans

Movie Review

For over 40 years, director Steven Spielberg has been delivering some of the most popular blockbuster movies of all time as well as a bevy of Oscar-quality dramas, a combination that’s unique to him. For his latest, The Fabelmans, he’s decided to go more personal than ever, telling a thinly-veiled version of his own childhood.

Sammy (played mostly by Gabriel LaBelle) is one of four children – and the only son – of Mitzi (Michelle Williams), a concert pianist, and Burt Fabelman (Paul Dano), a computer engineer. From an early age, Sammy is enthralled by the art of filmmaking, first remaking a train crash sequence from The Greatest Show on Earth, and gradually moving on to more adventurous stories.

Burt’s advancing career, which moves the family from New Jersey to Arizona to California, causes stress for various members of the family, most notably Sammy and Mitzi. Sammy must deal with anti-Semitic bullies, while Mitzi falls deeper into a mental health crisis. Sammy’s movies continually offer a respite for the family, though, giving him a creative outlet and the rest of them a chance to forget their troubles for a while.

Written by Spielberg – his first writing effort since 2001’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence – and Tony Kushner, the film is heavy on emotions but presented in a way that those feelings don’t always translate. Spielberg is no stranger to depicting fraught family situations in his long career, but in showing ones from his own family, it feels like he pulled back, not wanting the scenes to be overwrought or schmaltzy.

The result is a story that isn’t as universal as some of his other films. As the film is told from Sammy’s perspective, it’s easy to get caught up in his pursuits and various discoveries as he gets older. The mindsets of the rest of the family are less clear, even though his parents and sisters are ever-present. Mitzi’s state of mind is a concern from the start, but it’s not always treated as such by other important characters.

Just as Sammy’s movies are an escape for his family, so too are they some of the best parts of the film. Sammy figuring out the process and secrets of filmmaking is informative and often thrilling, especially if you’re a cinephile. Spielberg has been considered a master for so long that watching him revisit the days when he was learning as he went is catnip for movie lovers.

In addition to being a dead ringer for a teenage Spielberg, LaBelle is a fantastic actor. It’s no easy feat to carry a movie on your shoulders, and LaBelle makes the assignment look easy. Williams’ performance will likely be more polarizing; she employs a very mannered speech pattern that works in some situations, but not all. The film also includes memorable short appearances by Seth Rogen, Judd Hirsch, and David Lynch.

Spielberg has provided the moviegoing public with such pleasure over the years that he deserves to have a movie that’s mostly for him. The initial viewing of The Fabelmans left this critic wanting, but perhaps it will gain more traction on a second screening.

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The Fabelmans is now playing in theaters.

Photo by Merie Weismuller Wallace/Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment

Gabriel LaBelle in The Fabelmans

Texas billionaire Tilman Fertitta acquires award-winning California resort

tilman goes laguna

Fans of Tilman Fertitta's nationwide hospitality brands are in for a treat. The Billion Dollar Buyer has just secured an award-winning, 30-acre resort in sunny Southern California.

Fertitta has purchased the acclaimed Montage Laguna Beach Resort Hotel, a premier beachfront property in the sunny SoCal getaway destination. Notably, the Montage Laguna Beach Resort Hotel is one of only six hotels in the U.S. to score the Forbes Triple Five-Star hotel status. The Montage has also been included among Travel + Leisure’s Top Hotels in the World.

Image courtesy of Montage Laguna Beach

Fertitta's newest purchase overlooks the ocean in Laguna Beach.

“I am truly thrilled to acquire this world-renowned property and add one of America’s most iconic trophy resorts to our luxury hotel portfolio,” Fertitta noted in a statement. “I have been traveling to Laguna Beach for over 30 years. It is one of my favorite places to visit and one of the most beautiful areas in the world. The Montage is a stunning oceanfront property and one of the premier hotel brands in the world.”

Press materials didn't list the property purchase price, but Law360 reports that the deal is in excess of $660 million.

The Craftsman-style resort sits on a coastal bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Impressive amenities are highlighted by the 20,000-square-foot Spa Montage, which offers eucalyptus steam rooms, dry redwood saunas, ocean air whirlpools, fireplace lounges, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a movement studio, and a lap pool.

More outdoor fun includes two pools and direct beach access, a museum-quality fine art collection, and more than 20,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space, per press materials.

Every resident space — the 260 guestrooms, including 60 suites, beach bungalow-style rooms, and multi-bedroom villas — boast stunning views of the Pacific.

Dining destinations offer chef-driven interpretations of coastal California flavors inspired by region. The property is designated and included in the distinctive Legend Collection of Preferred Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

“We are thrilled that Tilman is the new owner of this one-of-a-kind property and welcome him into the Montage family,” said Alan Fuerstman, founder, CEO, and chairman of Montage International. Mary Rogers, the Montage's GM added, “The staff is thrilled to be working with Tilman. Everyone here at the property is tremendously excited about his purchase and look forward to continuing to provide a world-class experience to all of our guests."

Aside from his palatial Post Oak Hotel in Houston, Fertitta also owns 14 other hotel properties around the country, including the award-winning San Luis Resort in Galveston, plus five popular Golden Nugget casino and hotel locations.

Another feather in Fertitta’s luxury portfolio cap is the iconic Huntting Inn, one of the most charming and historic locales in East Hampton, New York.

No stranger to California, Fertitta's presence there includes Catch Seafood and Catch Steak, Mastro’s Ocean Club and Mastro’s Steakhouse, Morton’s The Steakhouse, Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, The Palm, and more — all part of his 60 brands and more than 600 concepts nationwide.