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A decade into Record Store Day, a new world of vinyl


by Shaun TANDON
Ma Nerriza dela Cerna of Erika Records displays a full color "Beauty and the Beast" record at the company's office in Buena Park, California on April 12, 2017, where the record manufacturing business has been pressing vinyl for over 30 years (AFP Photo/FREDERIC J. BROWN)

New York (AFP) - Ten years ago, most vinyl records sold for a few dollars -- dusty old albums with dog-eared covers that had been thrown out as useless relics of an earlier age.

However, faced with twin onslaughts from digital music and big-box stores, independent record stores in the United States banded together in 2007 to create an annual day of special sales -- and much to their surprise, vinyl has been king.

Metallica played the first Record Store Day at a branch of Rasputin Music in the San Francisco area. While the metal legends' presence ensured a crowd, all 10,000 vinyl reissues at the store sold out that day.

"That made me realize we were onto something. We tapped into something that nobody could have imagined," Record Store Day co-founder Michael Kurtz said.

Kurtz quickly expanded Record Store Day to continental Europe and Britain, where the first British edition was championed by Billy Bragg, the folk rocker known for his left-wing activism.

The 10th annual event takes place Saturday at thousands of stores around the world -- due to the deliberately loose structure, Kurtz does not have an exact figure -- with some 350 special vinyl pressings in the US market released on the day.

Since the first Record Store Day, vinyl has soared to levels not seen since the 1980s. It has been a rare source of growth in the long-beleaguered music industry alongside -- although at a much smaller scale than -- streaming.

Vinyl revenue will top $1 billion this year while sales of CDs and digital downloads tumble, the analytical firm Deloitte estimates.

In Britain, where vinyl's rebirth has been particularly pronounced, records generated more revenue than advertising-backed tiers of streaming platforms last year.

- Owning a format -
Vinyl enthusiasts such as Elton John, who has done promotions for Record Store Day, insist the medium offers a superior listening experience. But there are also broader cultural forces at play.

"It was a perfect storm," said Kurtz, 59, sipping coffee near his home in Harlem as he wore a T-shirt of punk icon Iggy Pop -- among the musicians with special Record Store Day releases.

"For the older music fan, people in my age group, it was a romantic thing that you can go back and buy all your favorite records again and buy special versions of those albums," he said.

"On the younger side of things, it enabled a whole new generation to own it. I think it was a response to digital in a way."

In a sun-kissed industrial plaza in Orange County, California, Erika Records never stopped making vinyl. But production has ramped up eight times in the past decade. The plant now produces 20,000 records a day.

"The vinyl resurgence has been very good to us," project manager Ma Nerriza dela Cerna said next to the plant, where records by artists from Lady Gaga to Bob Marley are manufactured from start to finish.

Part of vinyl's draw is the unique touches it provides for fans. Erika Records, the sole US plant to make color and picture records, works with artists to create original designs -- although it drew the line when one band proposed infusing its members' blood into the vinyl.

- Will boom last? -
"A lot of people say that the vinyl industry will eventually slow down," dela Cerna said. "I personally don't think that only because I feel like we're introducing vinyl to a new audience every day."

Record Store Day and Erika Records both have their roots in working with independent labels, although major conglomerates have since joined the event.

Unlike some indie purists, Kurtz rejoices in major labels' participation as a signal of vinyl's success. But he also worries that the same trends that battered independent stores a decade ago are coming back, with some labels bypassing them to sell directly to consumers.

Vinyl's growth has also been inconsistent. A major format for indie and classic rock and jazz, it has had much less impact in hip-hop, where top artists often find it more lucrative to sign streaming deals.

While vinyl makes up an ever-greater part of the market, the rate of growth in the United States slowed to four percent in 2016.

Kurtz isn't worried. Record store owners are enjoying themselves, he said, and the expansion was expected to plateau.

"Music has always had a core 10-15 percent of the population that buys the full vision of the artist, whether it's on CD or vinyl. And right now it's pretty close to that."

It’s a Nice Night for Surfing. Beware of Sharks!

Helmut Igel prepared to paddle out into the California surf. The popularity of surfing means more traffic on the water, but things can be quieter at night. Credit Donald Miralle for The New York Times

SAN DIEGO — The ocean and the sky melted together in a gray mass, making it tough for the surfer to size up the coming waves. Would they crash down on top of him and hold him under — or break in just the right spot for him to catch the perfect ride?

By day, the surfer, Helmut Igel, is not fazed by six-foot waves. But it was after midnight, on a moonless sea. Surfing is not the same in darkness.

Igel, 55, is among a small subculture of surfers who dot coastlines from San Diego to Sydney after sunset, pursuing an adventure that’s a subject of curiosity on social media these days thanks to pro surfers on LED boards. Visibility is but one of the perils.

Sharks, while rare along the coast here, can hunt at night. And surfers cannot count on being rescued by lifeguards; they left hours ago.

So why paddle out under the stars? Elbow room, mainly.

“These days on a full moon, you can still paddle out to a crowd. On other nights, it’s like stepping 
into a time in California pre-‘Gidget,’” said Igel, referring to the 1959 movie about a teenage girl’s infatuation with surf culture that helped kick-start a boom in the sport.

Estimates of the number of surfers worldwide vary greatly — the International Surfing Association says it is 35 million — but forecasts indicate that the sport is growing. More surfers means more traffic on the water as they wait for waves, continually battling for position, given that the surfer closest to the curl gets the wave. Crowding also strains surf etiquette, which calls for only one rider per wave (or two on a two-way peak).

So Igel agreed to an interview, as well as a request to shadow him in the water, on one condition: no naming the precise spot he frequents, somewhere between Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base and the curving La Jolla coastline 40 miles to the south.

Before hitting the darkened seas, Igel strapped on a helmet that was crusty from all the exposure to salt water, snapped a selfie and texted the picture to his wife to try to put her mind at ease. It does not always work, he said.

Duct-taped to the helmet were orange and purple glow sticks, a longtime night surfer accessory that alerts riders streaking across a wave to paddlers in their path.

Glow sticks can seem primitive next to the LED technology employed by pro surfers in video and social media clips in recent years. The most famous night ride to date took place in 2011: The Australian big-wave surfer Mark Visser — equipped with a buoyancy vest and a board with specially engineered LED lights — surfed 30-footers at the Hawaiian break Jaws.

“It started off as, ‘This is the most terrifying thing,’ but once I settled down and was able to really feel what was happening and be in the moment, it was the most amazing experience,” said Visser, noting that his death-defying stunt had required four years of preparation.

Visser’s tricked-out life jacket and board were not designed to light up the waves, but rather to enable rescue crews to spot him in the event of a wipeout. He figured out during training that lights pointed in any direction but behind him were blinding.

The Australian board maker Mike Bilton — one of the few producing commercial LED surfboards — encountered the same problem while developing a prototype.

“Later designs moved the lights mostly to the underside of the board, which casts a bit of light, so particularly when you’re on the wave you can see,” he said. “You’ve still got the initial challenges of seeing a wave coming.”

But glow sticks suit Igel just fine. Their light was the only sign of him as he stroked into a peeler, drew S-shaped turns and kicked out before the wave dumped him on the shore. He immediately began clawing his way back to the takeoff spot.

After 20 years of night surfing, Igel is accustomed to dicey situations. He recalled collisions — and a 12-foot sneaker wave that gave him and a friend the spin-cycle treatment. But those incidents have not kept him from going out a few times a month.

For Igel, a former ship navigator, bobbing offshore under the cover of darkness is second nature. “It’s not only about trying to get away from the crowds,” he said. “It’s the ambience, which is hard for me to put into words.”

I got a taste of this eerie beauty between wave sets.

Digging my hands through the water left sparkly white trails — what Igel calls pixie dust — because of phosphorescence in the water. Stars twinkled. Headlights from the occasional car reflected off low, wispy clouds.

Yet for all its allure, night surfing is linked to tragedy.

On Oct. 27, 2015, just as night began to fall, the big-wave surfer Alec Cooke paddled out at Waimea Bay in Oahu, Hawaii. After Cooke was reported missing, emergency responders found his surfboard washed up on shore, but not him.

Three days later, the body of Kenneth Mann, a master surfboard sander who was known to ride waves at night, was found tethered to his broken surfboard on the beach in Encinitas, Calif.

James McDonald of Ireland surfed under a full moon this month in California. Credit Donald Miralle for The New York Times

The Encinitas lifeguard captain Larry Giles said he had seen Mann jogging to the beach with his surfboard an hour or so before sunset the previous day. It is not clear what happened after that or when Mann drowned.

Given the lack of light, it is common for surfers’ eyes to play tricks on them: Is that kelp or something worse?

“Sharks are a big part of night surfing, even if they are not actually there,” said James McDonald, who joined Igel in sharing stories but did not paddle out that particular night. “The thought is always with me.”

He half-jokingly added that if he had the misfortune of encountering a shark, he would receive “an amazing epitaph: ‘Eaten by Great White Whilst Night Surfing.’”

Brad Benter, also a part of San Diego’s night surfing scene, said he had once spotted a shark’s dorsal fin 100 feet from him under a full moon about 4:30 a.m. These days he wears an anklet meant to ward off sharks, although he is not confident it works.

Still, the night surfers are moonstruck.

“Your eyes start to adjust after a while, and while still hard to see, you catch a wave,” McDonald said. 

“And in your head it feels like you ride two miles. Time stops.”

Night surfing is not new. A 1909 Collier’s magazine article on surfing in Hawaii described the annual Waikiki beachside carnival, in which surfers rode with acetylene lamps. In 1969, Hawaii’s Jock Sutherland, reportedly after taking LSD, rode 20-foot monsters at Waimea Bay well after sundown, according to Matt Warshaw, author of “The History of Surfing.”

“In the ’60s, young surfers would occasionally go out because the ingredients were there: summer, warm water and moonlight,” Warshaw said. “Later, it became a way to get away from the crowd, and I’m not even sure if that’s true anymore at prime spots.”

Back at the midnight break, Igel stroked into a wave that marched in from the darkness.

“This looks like a good one!” he said before dropping in.

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Aaron Hernandez Kills Himself In Prison

hernandezarrest dl2 Aaron Hernandez Kills Himself In Prison
Aaron Hernandez arrested at his home in North Attleboro, June 26, 2013. (Photo courtesy: Boston Globe-George Rizer)

SHIRLEY (CBS) – Former New England Patriot and convicted killer Aaron Hernandez killed himself in prison overnight, authorities said Wednesday morning.

Here is the message sent out by Christopher Fallon, the Assistant Deputy Commissioner of Communications of the Massachusetts Department of Correction:

On April 19, 2017 Aaron Hernandez was discovered hanged in his cell by corrections officers at the Souza Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley Massachusetts at approximately 3:05 a.m., lifesaving techniques were attempted on Mr. Hernandez and he was transported to UMASS Leominster where he was pronounced dead at 4:07 a.m. by a physician at the hospital.

Mr. Hernandez was in a single cell in a general population housing unit. Mr. Hernandez hanged himself utilizing a bed sheet that he attached to his cell window.

Mr. Hernandez also attempted to block his door from the inside by jamming the door with various items. The Massachusetts State Police are on scene and the investigation continues. Mr. Hernandez’s next of kin have been notified.

hernandezverdict Aaron Hernandez Kills Himself In Prison
Aaron Hernandez reacts to the not guilty verdict in his double murder trial on April 14, 2017. (WBZ-TV)

Fallon later told WBZ-TV’s Anna Meiler that Hernandez was not on a suicide watch because there was no indication he wanted to harm himself. Corrections officers found him when they were doing a regular hourly round in the unit.

There are no reports of a suicide note, Fallon said, adding that investigators are going through everything in his cell.

Hernandez’s body has been turned over to the state medical examiner’s office in Boston where an autopsy “will determine the cause and manner of death,” according to a statement from Worcester District Attorney Joe Early Jr.

WBZ-TV Chief Investigative reporter Cheryl Fiandaca said investigators will be looking into the time Hernandez entered his cell, the last time guards checked on him, and if there were any incidents leading up to his death.

hernandez1 Aaron Hernandez Kills Himself In Prison
Aaron Hernandez cried when the verdicts were read April 14, 2017. (WBZ-TV)

Just last Friday, Hernandez broke down in tears in court as he was acquitted of murder charges in the shooting deaths of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado in the South End in July 2012.

Hernandez, 27, was serving a life sentence for the murder of Odin Lloyd in June 2013.
Veteran defense attorney Randy Chapman told WBZ NewsRadio 1030 that Hernandez’s suicide may cause the murder conviction to be thrown out.

“That will likely be vacated because the conviction was not final, meaning that the state’s Supreme Court had not reviewed it for whether or not there were any errors during the course of the trial,” said Chapman.

prison1 Aaron Hernandez Kills Himself In Prison
The Souza Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley. (WBZ-TV)

Hernandez leaves behind his fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez and their 4-year-old daughter Avielle.

He grew up in Bristol, Connecticut, became a standout tight end at the University of Florida and was drafted by the Patriots in 2010.

tebow hernandez1 Aaron Hernandez Kills Himself In Prison
Tim Tebow and Aaron Hernandez during their days at Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

He quickly became a star and the Patriots signed him to a five-year contract extension in August 2012, just a month after de Abreu and Furtado were murdered.

aaron hernandez Aaron Hernandez Kills Himself In Prison
Aaron Hernandez. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

In June 2013 he was charged with shooting Lloyd to death, a short distance from his home in North Attleboro and the Patriots released him.

Hernandez was found guilty of first-degree murder in April 2015.
n an interview last Thursday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick called the Hernandez story a “tragedy” and “heartbreaking.”

belichickhernandez Aaron Hernandez Kills Himself In Prison
In this 2012 photo, Bill Belichick and Aaron Hernandez chat at the beginning of a Patriots practice at Gillette. (Photo credit: Boston Herald)

The Super Bowl champion Patriots are visiting the White House Wednesday, where they will meet with President Trump.

The Patriots declined to comment on Hernandez’s suicide Wednesday.

Ranchers stunned as beaver herds 150 cattle

Curious heifers marched after beaver, rancher calls event a very Canadian moment

By David Shield, CBC News
Saskatchewan rancher Adrienne Ivey may have heard of a beaver, but until now, had never seen a beaver herd — cattle, that is.

On Friday, Ivey and her husband were surprised to see 150 of their heifers crowded together in one of their pastures.

Curious about the strange behaviour, they investigated further, to find the herd of cattle following a beaver that had wandered along.

"He was out and about, I think looking for a new place to build a beaver lodge, and they were following him," Ivey said. "There was about a three-foot space around him. They didn't want to get closer than that."

According to Ivey, heifers are more inquisitive than the average bovine, which may have led to them following the beaver.

"They're a curious bunch," she said. "They're kind of like teenagers. And I think they were following this thing around because they couldn't figure out what the heck it was."

Ivey thought the odd event was even more notable considering the beaver is Canada's national symbol.

"We just thought this was so funny and so Canadian," she said. "A Canadian beaver leading around a bunch of Canadian cattle just makes it even more funny."

Ivey said they have a number of sloughs and wetlands on the ranch, and often see beavers walking around.

The couple farms near Ituna, 135 kilometres northeast of Regina.

Wall Street analyst dreams up Apple-Disney mega-merger

Getty Images

Bob Iger, chief executive officer of The Walt Disney Company, walks with Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple Inc., as they attend the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference, July 6, 2016 in Sun Valley, Idaho.

RBC Capital Markets told investors a mega-merger of Apple and Disney, though unlikely, would make sense strategically for the iPhone maker.

"We have seen increased discussions among investors regarding 'How could AAPL gain scale in media/content and what could it do with potential cash repatriation?" analyst Amit Daryanani wrote in a note to clients Thursday.

"We see a confluence of events that make an acquisition of DIS a 'greater than 0 percent' probability event (while odds are low). AAPL's focus on services and its inability (so far) to replicate its music/iTunes strategy into content/media make acquiring DIS logical in our view."

Daryanani cited Apple CEO Tim Cook's comments that "deal size isn't a negating factor" for its future mergers and acquisitions.

In addition, the analyst noted the Republican tax repatriation holiday proposals, where corporations can bring home overseas earnings at a lower tax rate. If this tax reform becomes law, the iPhone maker will have access to its more than $200 billion held abroad for acquisitions, he said.

Daryanani gave six reasons why Apple may buy Disney:

  1. "Accelerates AAPL's push into services and content."
  2. "Instantly leapfrogs Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube in content and resets the lead with content narrative."
  3. "AAPL has been unable to replicate its music playbook to video."
  4. "Iconic brand — there are few brands that AAPL could acquire that wouldn't dilute its iconic presence and customer relationships; DIS would clearly strengthen (and not dilute) the brand value."
  5. "Even using minimal cost synergy, we see the deal being accretive by 15-20 percent."
  6. "AAPL has been increasingly looking at larger deals and noted that services is a focus."
RBC Capital reiterated its buy rating and $155 price target for Apple, representing 9 percent upside from Wednesday's close.

Tim Tebow hits two-run homer in first minor league at-bat

 Photo: Sean Rayford, AP
, USA TODAY Sports 
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Tim Tebow’s minor league baseball career couldn’t have started in more magical fashion.

In his first at-bat for the Class A Columbia Fireflies, the former Heisman Trophy winner drove a 2-1 pitch from Augusta GreenJackets lefty Domenic Mazza off and over the fence in left field for a two-run home run, sending a capacity crowd at Spirit Communications Park into a disbelieving frenzy.

The shot came in the bottom of the second inning of Tebow’s first game with the New York Mets’ low-A affiliate, and came on the heels of a spring training performance during which he struggled in Grapefruit League exhibitions against major league clubs, getting just four hits in 27 at-bats (a .148 average).

It appears he’ll like lower minor league pitching a little better.

Tebow stopped momentarily at second base before an umpire motioned that it was a home run. He did a giddy-hop and pumped his arms, before completing the trip around the bases.

While Mezza is a far cry from Max Scherzer — the National League Cy Young winner who struck him out on three pitches last month — he’s far from a novice. Mezza, 22, posted a 3.93 ERA in 14 starts in this same South Atlantic League last season.

After fouling off a pair of pitches and deftly laying off a curveball in the dirt, Tebow — with fans clad in his jersey from the University of Florida, the Denver Broncos and even freshly purchased Fireflies Tebow T-shirts — created his first bit of baseball lore.