Short stuff

Dancing penguins

Mumbles the penguin puts it the best: Tap dancing, he says, "is like singing with your body."

This piece of wisdom comes straight from the beak of no less an authority than the digitally animated star of the box-office hit "Happy Feet."

In the movie, Mumbles, a web-footed, waddling gray ball of fluff, wins true love, saves his colony, and teaches humans important environmental lessons. And he does this all by performing a few time-step, paddle-and-roll, chug-shuffle combinations, as well as other classics of tap-dance choreography.

The movie even makes a case that tap dancing, properly performed, can save the world. And the film goes a long way toward explaining the appeal of a quintessentially American art form that some say reached its apex back in the 1920s.

"Tap just makes people happy," says Genevieve Cerri, a 17-year-old tap dancer at the School for the Arts in Baltimore.

"It makes me feel like a little kid again. When I tap, I forget about the rest of the world."

Mumbles would be proud.

New dollar coin

In February, the US government will introduce a series of silver-dollar coins. They will feature the faces of four presidents a year, in the order they served.

The first coins will have the pictures of George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison on them.

Current President George W. Bush will get his coin in about 10 years.

Did you know?

When kids ages 8 to 12 surf the Internet, they're mostly looking for help on homework, according to a recent survey in London. About 61 percent of kids use the Web for homework help.

What else do they do online? Forty-seven percent play online games, 34 percent exchange e-mails, and 16 percent chat with family and friends. What about you?

New shoes

Love Play-Doh? Soon you can wear it.

That's because Hasbro, the makers of the popular doughy modeling "clay," is teaming up with Reebok to manufacture a collection of toddler footwear. A Play-Doh compound will be put in the heel for cushioning.

The shoes will cost about $30 and come with two cans of Play-Doh.

Panda party

The name is fitting: Su Lin. In Chinese, it means "A Little Bit of Something Very Cute."

That's what zookeepers at the San Diego Zoo named the third young giant panda cub to be born at the zoo.

Yet "little" may be misleading. That's because the panda, now 1 year old, has had a significant growth spurt. The size of a candy bar at birth, she now weighs about 69 pounds, thanks, in part, to a diet of bamboo.

That's good news for conservationists hoping to save giant pandas, an endangered species.

Some say there are fewer than 2,000 of them living in remote, mountainous regions of central China. About 200 live in zoos around the world.

San Diego has the most pandas – six, including Su Lin – of any zoo in the US.

To take a peek at Su Lin, who spends most of the day in bamboo trees with her siblings, visit the zoo's Web cam at station.html.

Popular holiday gifts

The results are in: Barbie was the top holiday gift for girls this season, according to the National Retail Federation.

The famous doll – whose "real" name is Barbara Millicent Roberts and which was introduced in 1959 – was the year's most coveted toy. More than 1.5 million Barbies are sold every week.

Other popular gifts for girls were Bratz, TMX Elmo, Dora the Explorer, and Disney Princess.

The most popular gifts for boys were TMX Elmo, cars, LEGOS, and electronic gaming systems and accessories.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.