Alternative tentacles

Alternative will eat itself: Love it or hate it but enjoy this locally owned newspaper while you still can. Even the alternative press can’t escape media consolidation and corporate synergy.

According to the San Francisco Bay Guardian, the nation’s two largest alt-weekly chains—Village Voice Media (VVM) and the New Times Corp.—are quietly negotiating a merger that would rival any daily-newspaper empire. The Phoenix-based New Times chain publishes 11 weeklies in all, including the East Bay Express and San Francisco Weekly. (New Times even offered to buy the News & Review once but was rebuffed by company President Jeff vonKaenel.) VVM owns the iconic alt weeklies the Village Voice in New York and LA Weekly. With 18 papers, the new company would be the most ubiquitous “alternative” ever and would dominate circulation in all of the biggest cities. The Bay Guardian story is based on a leaked copy of a draft agreement between the two companies that author Tim Redmond claims to have acquired. So far, none of the honchos at New Times or VVM have returned calls to confirm or deny the Bay Guardian story.

Of course, Bites doesn’t want to bug them too much. They might be Bites’ new bosses one day.

That’s going to leave a mark: Mixed martial artist James Irvin of Roseville had been there before, on pay-per-view, and wasn’t about to lose for a second time at the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) on August 20. After dropping the opening round to unbeaten Terry Martin, Irvin came out for the second with a bone-crunching flying knee to the head that knocked Martin silly and left him unconscious on the canvas for three minutes while Irvin soaked up the response from a stunned crowd. It was especially impressive considering that the Martin, now 10-1, had survived several gunshot wounds while growing up on the rough streets of Chicago and had a reputation as a never-say-die foe.

“I remember feeling his head come off my knee,” Irvin told Bites. “As soon as he hit the ground, it was done. I didn’t even look back.”

At 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, Irvin, now 9-1, looks more like a male model than a fighter. He’s also adept at dealing out the kind of butt-kicking that would make the LAPD blush.

A previous opponent, an unbeaten biker type named Doug Marshall, lost hearing in his ear after Irvin took him out in May.

This time, Martin was helped out of the cage with oxygen. “It was the biggest fight of my career,” Irvin said. “If I lost that one, I’m really back on the bottom of the pile.”

Irvin’s next fight will be on the UFC’s December show—no word on whether he can be unleashed on squabbling state legislators in the interim.

Just the paper ballot, please: Skeptics of electronic voting machines have been saying for years that producing a paper copy of each vote is the only way to prevent widespread electoral hanky-panky.

Now such a paper-trail requirement finally may become law. Senate Bill 370, the brainchild of state Senator Debra Bowen, is headed to the governor’s desk. State law requires election officials to manually recount ballots cast in at least 1 percent of precincts chosen at random. “But since you can’t manually count electronic ballots,” said Bowen, “the only logical way to comply with the 1-percent manual tally required by law is to use the paper trail connected to each ballot.”

Makes sense to Bites, but current Secretary of State Bruce McPherson has complained that using a paper trail for these machines could delay future recounts and disenfranchise disabled voters who would be unable to obtain an audio playback of their vote based on a paper copy.

Even if Bowen’s bill becomes law, it would be up to McPherson to implement, and he sounds none too enthusiastic about it. Of course, we all know what happened to the last secretary of state who toyed with the idea of a paper trail for electronic voting machines—Kevin Shelley.