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Britney gifts go viral on Facebook

The first celebrity gifts on Facebook are now on sale, and who is at the forefront of this e-commerce revolution? Britney, of course.

The pop star Britney Spears, who is described on her blog as an "international icon," has loaned her likeness or related images to a series of virtual gifts that Facebook users can send to one another.

A couple of them show her singing, others show her on-stage outfits and one perhaps hints at a political message by showing a rainbow-colored balloon labeled "Britney Pride" (Spears has spoken out in support of gay marriage).

According to the Britney blog, all of the gift symbols were designed by Susan Kare. Back in the 1980s, Kare designed some of the original Macintosh computer icons, including the famous one with the smiling computer face.

Except for one of the Britney gifts that is free, the others cost $2 to obtain and send. All are limited editions, although you probably don't have to rush over to the site right away. The "Happy Birthday" symbol with Britney's signature is available to the first 500,000 buyers.

-- David Colker

From Technology: The business and culture of our digital lives

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Gill, Yoakam at L.A. benefit

Los Angeles will get an all-star "guitar pull" on behalf of the Country Music Hall of Fame in October, and then the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will host a week-long salute in November to one of its inductees, Janis Joplin, the hall's 2009 American Music Masters honoree.

Vince Gill, Dwight Yoakam and Emmylou Harris, all of whom figured prominently in L.A.'s roots-country community at some point in their careers, will appear at Club Nokia for the country music organization's annual All for the Hall fundraiser. The guitar pull, in which musicians take turns sharing songs and stories, is a country tradition most famously conducted in Tennessee by Johnny Cash and his coterie of friends and family members. The annual benefit, launched in 2005, was held in New York for the last two years. Funds support the museum's long-term financial needs.

In November, Joplin will be the subject of a week-long program titled "Kozmic Blues: The Life and Music of Janis Joplin," which will strive to outline her significant contributions to rock music and pop culture as a pioneering live performer, songwriter and singer.

"I am touched, as is the rest of the family, that Janis' musical and social power continue to inspire and remain important in the lives of so many," Joplin's sister, Laura Joplin, said in a statement. "It is a true compliment and homage to her contributions, and she would be proud to see her name among the others who have been honored." That list includes Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Sam Cooke and Les Paul.

-- Randy Lewis

From Pop & Hiss: The L.A. Times music blog

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Mermaid lures tourists to Israel

It has been just about every male fisherman's fantasy, at one point in their lives, to encounter a mermaid.

In a coastal community in Israel, however, visitors who claim to have spotted a mermaid insist she is real and looks like a cross between a fish and young girl.

The reports conjure memories of the romantic comedy "Splash," starring Daryl Hannah. But in Kirvat Yam, the mermaid in question has not rescued a drowning swimmer and remains elusive, emerging only at sunset (during happy hour, we presume).

"People say it is half girl, half fish, jumping like a dolphin," town spokesman Natti Zilberman told Sky News. Zilberman said the town has offered a $1-million reward for anyone who can prove, with a credible photograph, the mermaid's existence.

Zilberman denied this is one giant contrived publicity stunt but acknowledged the offer of a reward was made in hope of luring more tourists to the area. That plan is working like a charm.

-- Pete Thomas

From Outposts: Outdoors, action, adventure

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Broken baseball bats are a hit

In this recession, how does paying top dollar for a broken item sound?

The Art of the Game store at Dodger Stadium believes it's a good idea and its sales prove it.

In the first two days, the store sold six game-used bats broken by Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, James Loney and Russell Martin at $199 apiece.

The appeal of a defective product?

"It's the charm of knowing that it's something that a player used," said Carlos Lecanda, who works for the store located near the Vin Scully Press Box at Dodger Stadium. "The more [use] on it, the better. It adds more character to it."

The bats are adorned with players' names printed on the tip. Some are wrapped with tape to keep them from falling apart. And all of them have the fresh feeling of pine tar, which will keep your hands sticky up to an hour after a test swing.

To those who think those details don't merit the hefty price tag, Lecanda will tell you passionately about the bat's essence.

"Each one tells a story by its cracks," he said, running his hand over a bat. "It's like it has a spirit, and you own it."

The store has shops in Dodger Stadium, Angel Stadium and Staples Center.

Mario Aguirre


From The Fabulous Forum: The who, what, where, when, why -- and why not -- of L.A. sports

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