Uncle Sam wants you. You already knew that. But for a brief time, he also wanted your favorite flying Austin mascot.
According to a Washington Post article published last month, the U.S. military once recruited hundreds of Mexican free-tailed bats in a plot to blow up Japanese cities during World War II. These bats (the largest urban colony of which famously lives in present-day Austin) were meant to carry bombs and roost in Japanese buildings, where they would, well … explode.
This is the part where you take a breath and collect yourself. You will need the oxygen for your brain. Go for a walk. Text your friend back. Things are about to get wild. Best to get your affairs in order. Because here are some of the other batty details about Project X-Ray (I know, right?) in the Post’s story:
• The plan got rubber-stamped by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
• The whole scheme was cooked up by a Pennsylvania dentist.
• Special bat-sized bombs had to be invented, using parts from a factory owned by Bing Crosby.
• Finding it difficult to control the winged wonders, the military tried refrigerating them to make them sleepy; they either woke too late and fell to earth like bat-bricks, or woke too soon and escaped.
• The whole scheme ended with the bats and their bombs set most of a New Mexico military base on fire, including making a general’s car go "boom."
The Post’s whole tale is worth examining in detail. And since time is a big ol’ loop, the newspaper also reported that the U.S. military is once again interested in the military application of bats. Their present-day target? Russian bioweapons.
RELATED: 5 tips for planning a bat-centric Austin staycation
Gather ’round, Guys
The world will eventually come to an end. When the ground beneath our feet has turned to ash the color of lead, and when poisoned air grasps at our throats with its choking skeleton grip, will you be able to remember a town that once bloomed with flavor?
You might, as there is a Guy Fieri convention coming to Austin this fall. That’s according to Do512, where a posted event called "Guy FieriCon Austin 2018" is set for Oct. 20.
"FieriCon is a collection of Guy Fieri (and Girl Fieri) enthusiasts who embrace all things Flavortown and yes if you so dare, to even dress up the Mayor of said town himself!" the description reads. FieriCon is billed as a pub crawl. According to the event listing, organizers are still seeking interested bars in the downtown area. The event will be free, but the listing promises Fieri swag to Guys and Girls Fieri who donate to a to-be-announced charity.
This will be the country’s third edition FieriCon, after the event started in New York in 2016. Like any contagion worth its salt, it appears this year’s edition has designs on spreading across the nation, if the promotional graphic for the Do512 event is any indication. A Milwaukee meet-up is also planned this year, according to the Do512 event.
Helpfully, the FieriCon website provides tips for how to get that iconic Guy Fieri look. The signature white-blond plume of hair and the sculptural goatee can be purchased from Amazon. Bowling shirts, leather wrist cuffs and cycling sunglasses can, as well, but could also be sourced from foraging at your local mall, one guesses.
Attendees must provide their own preternatural sense of confidence void of any shame.
Diving with the stars
There are a few ways you might know Nyle DiMarco. He was the second male winner and first deaf winner of "America’s Next Top Model." He won the 22nd season of "Dancing With the Stars." He’s appeared in roles on TV shows like "Switched at Birth" and "Difficult People." He’s an activist for the deaf community. He’s also really, really good on a diving board.
On Aug. 8, DiMarco posted an Instagram video of himself taking a few flips off the diving board at Barton Springs Pool. I’ve seen plenty of folks’ turns at the iconic Austin pool’s launching pad, and I must say, DiMarco is pretty fun to watch.
"I still got all the skills on a diving board!! (watch till the end) What tricks you want me to do next?" DiMarco wrote in the video’s caption. By his own count, the model performs a forward back flip; a "one and half flip" dive; a 180-degree back dive; a double back flip; and a double front flip in the video.
So, if you saw an incredibly attractive man around Austin that day who looked like he had met Tyra Banks, I hope you gave him a thumbs up for the board skills.
Move over, Louvre. Get lost, Getty. Austin’s about to host a museum that will make those venerated cultural galleries seem boring: a pop-up doughnut museum.
According to a Facebook event, the Refinery on Brazos Street will turn into the "Museum of Donuts" on Aug. 26 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The "pop-up experience" is to promote Shop Koko, a new merch line from Austin food blog A Taste of Koko.
"Museum of Donuts." Waitaminutewhat?
According to the event description, this temporary temple to treats (museum might be an exaggeration) will include an "edible donut wall," an "inflatable donut pool with donut floaties" and a "donut swing."
The Mona Lisa might be nice, but you can’t eat it.
The Facebook event touts the museum pop-up as "Instagrammable," so if you are into that sort of thing and need a new Tinder picture, strap on that sprinkle-coated pool floatie. Tickets also include a swag bag. Oh, also, there will be doughnuts to eat. Natch. From "Austin’s favorite donut shops," no less: Gourdough’s, Bougie’s Donuts, Hank’s, Master Donuts, Little Lucy’s, Caroline and more, according to the event website. That might not include the blueberry cake doughnut from 7-Eleven that you (I) love so much.
"How different could New York barbecue really be?" you asked yourself, before you sat down to a plate of brined and smoked watermelon that looks exactly like ham steak.
That’s right. Really different.
According to lifestyle news website Insider, the smoked watermelon steak is being served at New York barbecue restaurant Duck’s Eatery and runs guests $75. It also takes between four and six days to prepare and must be ordered a week in advance.
Before the watermelon is tossed into the smoker, it’s brined with coriander, oregano and salt. After it comes out, it’s basted in olive oil and rosemary. The dish also utilizes oakwood ash, which gives the melon a pseudo skin.
The restaurant’s owner told Insider that the dish is an effort to offer guests more vegetarian options and that the method does "the same thing we’ve been doing for thousands of years to meats, but we do it to a melon."
Twitter shared some of the reactions users were having to the dish Wednesday, and not all ("I’m sorry they did that to you watermelon") were positive. And as a reminder, there’s plenty of real, regular barbecue right here in Austin.
— Amanda O’Donnell, American-Statesman staff
Sometimes all you need is a good hug, especially if you haven’t been hugged in a while.
That was local Christian author Jen Hatmaker’s rationale during Austin Pride weekend. Hatmaker, husband Brandon and other members of Austin New Church showed up at the Austin Pride Parade on Aug 11. to offer free hugs to anyone who wanted one, in an effort to extend compassion to the LGBTQ community.
"My beloved little church went downtown to the #AustinPrideParade and gave out Free Mom Hugs, Free Dad Hugs, Free Grana Hugs, and Free Pastor Hugs like it was our paying jobs," Hatmaker wrote in an Instagram post the day after the parade. "And when I say hugs, I mean THE KIND A MAMA GIVES HER BELOVED KID."
Hatmaker has long supported the LGBTQ community and in 2016 took a lot of flak for it after she gave an interview to the Religion News Service, in which she criticized Donald Trump and said she believes an LGBTQ relationship can be holy. In the immediate wake of that interview, LifeWay pulled her books from stores, but Austin’s BookPeople doubled down and ordered more.
— Jake Harris, American-Statesman staff
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Catch up on the week’s viral headlines and entertainment buzz, brought to you by social media editor and pop culture writer Eric Webb. Read more at austin360.com/webbreport.