IT WAS good to hear yesterday from the former Mrs Bunyip, who stays in regular touch and for whom divorce has been quite the tonic. Before things turned nasty and lawyers inserted themselves in the chasm jointly excavated by the Professor's poor behaviour and Mrs Bunyip's inner nun, topics of conversation were entirely predictable, especially first thing in the morning. Full ashtrays and empty bottles dotted about the domestic plain never failed to prompt a lecture about healthy living and the need to renounce life's small pleasures, while any mention of golf, fishing or other recreational activities was a catalyst for the immediate listing of more worthy things in need of doing -- things involving screwdrivers, lawnmowers and preparations for the imminent arrival of her sisters and extended family. These days, now that the rancour has passed, it is a genuine pleasure to chat away with the ex, whose fury has so diminished she no longer even touches on what went on that night at the mooring with former best friend Joan. Divorce, you see, really does bring couples closer.
It's a thought prompted by, of all people, the Professor's newsagent, whose boy has once again delivered the Age rather than the Australian. As buying that wretched newspaper only encourages the people who produce it, the responsible course is to read it online where it costs nothing, which is still more than the Age is worth. Indeed, having glanced through this morning's edition, there is a strong case to be made for pasting a gold coin to the front page as a compensation for ploughing through page after page of the entirely predictable. Even at her reformist worst, Mrs Bunyip's hectoring was never half so easy to anticipate.
Take just the opinion page, for example. Martin Flanagan, a non-believer, reads the gospels and concludes that Jesus was just what Martin Flanagan wants him to be -- opposed to the rich, in particular. The only surprise is that Flanagan does not place the alleged Messiah on a sustainable bicycle and have him distributing how-to-vote cards for Bob Brown.
Then there is foreign policy guru Daniel Flitton and his thoughts on social media, which he sees as being very important and not-so-important in shaping revolutions and fostering change. There is insight for you! If Fitton were to check out what is said online about his employer and the preachy crap it publishes, he might better understand why Fairfax stock is bumping along just a few pennies removed from its all-time low.
Spirituality also gets the better of Hugh Mackay, who reckons Christmas needs to be rescued from believers -- especially conservative believers, whom he dismisses as fundamentalists -- and made available to Age readers, who should make of it what they will.
Shaun Carney took that advice to heart, because he goes off on a meandering Yule rumination which begins with Simon and Garfunkel, touches inevitably on boat people and staggers exhausted -- his readers will be, anyway -- into the erosion of the public's faith in politics. That is Age-speak for "Gillard is on the nose and, as I cannot bring myself to blame her government's lies, policies and incompetence, I'll just blame those eager to turf her out at the first opportunity." He can get away with it, too, as it is only supporters of Gillard and the Greens who still read the Age -- and if someone who could set him straight stumbles by chance upon his column and writes a letter to the editor, well it would not be published. Like the ex-Mrs Bunyip's intolerance of dissent, in the Age it is very hard to register a corrective word.
Elsewhere in the Age, public transport is extolled and Chadstone shopping centre's plan to expand dismissed. Well none of the stores in that complex advertise in the Age these days, so why not pleasure readers who believe waiting for a crowded bus or overdue tram is morally uplifting? Those same people also believe the Age is a good newspaper, which further explains the share price.
And last, but by no means least, John Menadue rabbits on about boat people and how Gillard is right to wish them packed off to Malayasia because Nauru just won't work. This from Gough Whtitlam's chief of staff -- what an absolute surprise!
The former Mrs Bunyip will be checking in later today with a Christmas present and, if recent conduct is any guide, not the slightest edge to her tongue. It will be good to see her and to discuss to the sort of topics a toxic marriage placed firmly out of bounds. There is a lesson there for the Age, a Christmas message if you will. If the rupture with its former readers was to be made absolute, if the newspaper could only die, well it just might be possible to see a new owner resurrect it as a better, saner, and far more congenial presence on Melbourne's landscape.
So, if you still read the Age, divorce it. It can only improve as a result, even if it is never published again.
UPDATE: At its current market cap, an investment of $350 million would secure 20% of Fairfax stock and, by virtue of that, control of the board and company. CEO Hywood has paid down debt quite a bit over the past 12 months, which makes such a deal a good deal more attractive. Fix the company, see the stock rise, make out very nicely -- that should be the business plan. In the next 12 months -- and you can take this from a Bunyip -- Fairfax will either go broke or it will be taken over via the receivers or, equally likely, because the stock is going to sink to such a level that someone will recognise an opportunity. Cannot happen soon enough.