Penguin family values: Were the conservative pundits quoted in the New York Times piece on "March of the Penguins" (see Wednesday's Fix) really aware of how the moral role models they were endorsing actually live? Several readers hastened to point out that the movie's stars, emperor penguins, are hardly examples of committed monogamists: "Neither the Times nor your Fix column noted that the 'March of the Penguins' movie clearly says the penguins are only devoted to each other for a year and then do the whole thing over with [a] different partner. That's the monogamy and devotion the conservatives are celebrating?" Indeed, a 1999 article in the Auk, the journal of the American Ornithologists' Union, points out that emperor penguins (A. forsteri) "have much lower mate fidelity than do smaller species of penguins, despite their high rates of survival." It gets even trickier: Penguins can be gay, too. There have been a number of high-profile gay penguins over the past couple of years (Humboldt penguins, as opposed to the movie's emperors), from Coney Island's cute male couple, Wendell and Cass, to the poor guys at Germany's Bremerhaven Zoo -- after discovering three of the zoo's five penguin couples were gay, zookeepers imported Swedish babe penguins to try to make the boys go straight (fourth item). Some penguins have even proved to be real flip-floppers: The first famous gay penguin couple, Roy and Silo of the New York Central Park Zoo, have apparently broken up after Silo went hetero. "They split up, although there are a few other same-sex groupings," confirms Rob Gramzay, the zoo's senior penguin keeper. These must have been the norms conservative talk-radio host Michael Medved meant when he said the movie "most passionately affirms traditional norms like monogamy, sacrifice and child rearing." (New York Times, the Guardian, Der Spiegel, Columbia News Service, FindArticles)
Britney not a girl, yet now a mother: In what will probably compete with the Brad Pitt-Jennifer Aniston divorce as celebrity news story of the year when VH1 gets around to taking a look back at '05 in "I Love the 2000s," Britney Spears has given birth to a baby boy. Us Weekly, which can claim the scoop (though its online version was intermittently buckling under the weight of traffic as of this writing), writes that Spears gave birth just before 1 p.m. Wednesday at the UCLA medical center in Los Angeles, and that while the couple hasn't officially named the baby yet, sources say Preston Michael Spears Federline is top on the list of contenders. The Daily News offers its own helpful angle on the story by doing the baby's astrology charts, which show he's "a Virgo with Sagittarius rising. The Virgo part of his chart shows a very thoughtful, reflective child who will love to read and learn. With Uranus in the third house, he has a quick mind and is quite an original thinker." (Star, Us Weekly, N.Y. Daily News)
Don't mess with the celebrities: If today's celebrity news cycle shows one thing, it's that crime doesn't pay. Things that especially don't pay: breaking into Jennifer Aniston's house (gets you a three-year restraining order, with more serious first-degree burglary and petty theft charges still pending); punching Dr. Dre in the face (gets you a year in jail and a three-year restraining order); and, most serious of all, overcharging David Letterman for painting his house (gets you 10 years in the big house, though some of that has to do with also plotting to kidnap Letterman's son and nanny and holding them for ransom). (BBC, Washington Post, Associated Press)
Stars can be criminals, too, as Russell Crowe is all too painfully aware. Crowe is desperately seeking a reduction in the criminal assault charge filed against him for allegedly throwing a phone at a hotel concierge. (He settled with the man out of court earlier this month.) A felony conviction would mean the actor could no longer work in the U.S. and could face up to seven years in prison Michael Jackson has named eight performers who he says have agreed to appear on his Hurricane Katrina benefit song, "From the Bottom of My Heart": James Brown, Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige, Missy Elliott, Lenny Kravitz, R. Kelly, Snoop Dogg and Ciara. Weirdly, Jay-Z's publicist insisted he'd "been approached, but Jay told me directly he is not yet confirmed to be on that song." Even more weirdly, when confronted with this information, Jackson's publicist handed the phone to M.J. friend and record label owner Sheik Abdulla bin Hamad Al Khalifa, who said they'd talked to the artists personally: "He made every single call himself" Celebrity weekly editors and adult webmasters everywhere are clutching their digital cameras with anticipation over the news that Brad Pitt appears in a "lengthy" nude scene in his upcoming film, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" Film director Robert Wise -- who helped edit "Citizen Kane" and went on to direct "West Side Story" and "The Sound of Music" -- passed away on Wednesday morning at the UCLA medical center in Los Angeles. He was 91.
Johnny Depp refuting rumors that he's planning to open a club in Las Vegas: "I'm insane, but I'm not completely dumb." (Contactmusic)
The 11th season of "Survivor" starts on Thursday (CBS, 8 p.m. EDT), this time with teams heading to Guatemala, and Comedy Central debuts "Showbiz Show With David Spade" (10:30 p.m. EDT). Also, President Bush will be addressing the nation from Louisiana at 9 p.m. EDT on ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox.
-- Scott Lamb