MS: Why have you returned?
BA: I didn't want the paper to fall into the wrong hands.
MS: Whose hands would those be?
BA: Pick a name or an entity.
MS: Do you plan major changes?
BA: Apart from firing you, no. But the paper is now located in the Farrer Building upstairs, meaning a major change of location from Farmer John's pasture to what might be called upscale-rustic. The paper, as of Thursday, is in central Boonville just down the street from where Homer Mannix breathed it into life in 1955. I especially like being there because, of course, it is accessible and because it is where old Anderson Valley, the only valley I wholeheartedly relate to, held not only important local trials but community events of all kinds. The Farrer Building is, historically considered, ground zero for the Anderson Valley. It's an inadvertent honor to be housed there. True rural community, though, was lost in America after WWII, and this community has changed radically at least five times, becoming more diffuse with each demographic change until what we have now is collections of isolates and affinity groups, resulting, I think, in an even greater importance of independent, community-based newspapers which, if they're any good, help us focus on the issues affecting us all.
MS: Try to be brief, please. Remember, we've had to cut back to eight pages. Confine your windy editorializing to the space allotted inside the paper.
BA: You're fired again, although I think you and Dave and Saffron have done a fine job over the last three years given the realities of contemporary media and the pure effort it takes to produce a quality paper every week.
MS: Thank you, but can you elaborate?
BA: You want more praise? What I mean is obvious enough, I think. Generally speaking people under the age of 50 don't read newspapers anymore. Not that I blame them. Look at the papers out there. Anyway, most Americans now get their misinformation electronically from extremely dubious sources, not through paper and print where, unlike the fleeting images of television or the ocular razzle dazzle of the internet, there's time to consider and reflect. There's more competition than ever for the beset, fragged attentions of people who, after all, have other things to do besides keeping track of local, state, national, and international catastrophes. In Mendocino County the media reporting on local matters is short on context and criticism and entirely predictable in a narrow-range of strait-jacketed opinion dominated by the inane right reflecting the primitive views of the outside ownership of the "local" papers to the flabby, conservative liberalism of public radio and television, the latter being mostly government and corporate-funded, of course, and no real alternative to the officially corporate-government media. And it's all boring and badly written and inarticulate and humorless and so on. Which is why the AVA is more necessary than ever as a weekly corrective.
MS: Your new AVA is where on the political continuum?
BA: Nowhere particularly. I've never shut out opinion because I happen to disagree with it. I think readers should be trusted to judge for themselves, the great irony being that they aren't trusted to do that by television, print media, radio.
MS: Would you print a Klan letter?
BA: Of course. I wouldn't give them a column, but the only corrective for unfounded opinions is publication. Sound thinking drives out unsound thinking. Driving the unsound underground or onto The Great Babble of the anonymous Internet helps it thrive. The extremists, left and right, and I think the liberals and so-called progressives are right up there with Bill O'Reilly in the shout-down department although the O'Reillys obviously have a huge media apparatus compared to the opposition, which has Amy Goodman (on her good days), Cockburn and CounterPunch, and a few other voices heard only by a tiny minority of the population. I've only been shouted down and shut out by the fascist wing of the "progressives," not being important enough to be shouted down by the blowhards of the O'Reilly-Hannity type. I should emphasize, though, that the AVA's focus remains, as always, on local, by which I mean Mendocino County and its surrounding counties.
MS: What happened in Oregon?
BA: I ran out of operating capital. I'm pretty sure I could have outlasted the opposition — progressive fascisti reinforced by the Democratic Party apparatus as found in Eugene's pathetic weekly newspaper — which quickly organized to prevent me from getting a foothold there. I foolishly had counted on the proceeds from my winning lawsuit against Mendocino County to fund me for the year I needed to get established. The paper was just getting out there when I got the news that my legal victory, and the verdict of a jury of my peers, had been overturned by California's SUV-driving-Mexican gardeners-private schools-for-the-kids-Hillary-voting appellate court.
MS: You won a jury trial in Ukiah in about 45 minutes; how'd you lose it?
BA: I certainly appreciate these lob ball questions, Maj. Move over Larry King! Without going into tedious detail, Mendocino County's Department of Social Services, you will recall, had published legal advertising in all the county's newspapers except mine. Which is discriminatory and illegal. Maxing out my credit cards and nearly losing my dear wife of 45 years, I sued. A jury saw it my way so fast that County Counsel was walking around looking like he'd been hit with a baseball bat. He seemed to think he'd put on a boffo case. I lost at the appellate level, I think, because our argument was fuzzy and my attorney gratuitously included with our response the most inflammatory cartoon ever printed in the AVA. It was a drawing by Mary Miles, who is now an attorney, depicting the Supreme Court as tumescent, straining penises. Why that particular drawing was included with our argument is a mystery to me, but I'm sure it didn't help the cringing little yuppos who sit as judges these days to focus on the merits of the case. In fact, they didn't focus. Their decision would fail a high school logic test. I had no money to appeal to the state supreme court which, in any case, is even more of a bunch of straining penises than the San Francisco gang.
MS: Aren't you whining?
BA: Excuse me, but who asked the question? No, it's not whining. It's more like a high keening at the funeral of a person who is really, really missed. I missed about forty thousand dollars on that one, which is enough to make anybody cry, isn't it? By the way, I see that local public agencies like the MTA and Social Services are still denying the AVA legal advertising to which the AVA is rightfully entitled. These agencies can't use public money to advertise only with media their chickenbleep (sic) administrators approve of. If we had a supervisor this kind of deliberate, retaliatory use of public funds might be corrected without going to court again, but…
MS: What have you been doing for the last three years?
BA: Drinking, weeping, weeping, drinking. Actually, I've been working. I've got two manuscripts ready for publication. Both, I hope, are the first two in a series of books tentatively called either (1) Mendocino County, An Anecdotal History or (2) The Mendocino Papers. What's out there now in the way of county history is, to say the least, deficient. The one true book about the founding of the county, "Genocide and Vendetta," is long out of print. There have been bits and pieces since but nothing like what I have. I'll fill in a lot of the blanks. I hope that's what I'll do anyway, but readers, assuming there are some, will decide that.
MS: Are you living in Boonville?
BA: Yes. I've found a place owned by a good friend who is renting it to me at a 1980 rate. I'd tell you where but I don't have my guns with me yet. I'll be here five days a week, San Francisco most weekends. Incidentally, for $20 I can take one southbound passenger to Frisco every Friday afternoon at 5pm. $30 round-trip, the return departing SF at 5pm Sunday afternoons. Call the AVA at 895-3016. Marine Corps veterans ride free. (Persons who use words like "envision" need not apply. )
MS: Do you have a PUC transport license? And isn't this kind of solicitation kind of pathetic?
BA: Fuel prices, Mark, will make beggars of us all.
MS: I know. You've changed the masthead. What do you mean "America's Last Newspaper"?
BA: Privately owned by one person and politically independent in a time when print media are going the way of the dinosaurs and major league outfielders who can catch fly balls. Name another paper that meets the above description. The AVA is the last newspaper of the advocacy type that began with Ben Franklin in the 18th century. When the AVA goes, that tradition goes with it, and America is that much more doomed.
MS: You seem to have become quite, well, grandiose, dare I say megalomaniacal, in your time away.
BA: Don't think I'm bragging here because this has all happened by default. I'm merely stating the obvious, my good fellow, the obvious.
MS: To conclude on a serious note, what's the deal with that letter from Sister Yasmin this week?
BA: Beats me. Apparently some fun-loving prankster stirred the old girl up. But Rasta save me! There's no market I know of for books consisting of nude photos of ancient hippies!