Friday, February 12, 2016

1603 The End of an Era

How many times have you seen that tired old phrase?  It’s usually reserved for things that matter at least to some people.

GM stops making Pontiacs.  Traditional TV channels are swapped for digital frequencies.  Legal segregation is abolished.  Unity among Republicans is abolished.  A black man is elected President and a woman may soon be.

But this one is one for the ages.  Literally.  Britain’s House of Lords, the only legislative body stuffier than the US Senate, is going to stop keeping its records on vellum.

Vellum is calfskin.  Most of us gave up killing young bovines for their skin ages ago.  You rarely see a banjo or drum head made from a dead animal.

But when musicians opted out of vellum, it was because various man-made substitutes sound better, last longer and aren’t subject to variations in temperature and humidity.

So while the animal rights folks may be happy with the Lords, it’s not animal rights they had in mind when they decided to go high tech, it was money.

Let’s not delude ourselves.  This choice is not exactly a leap into the 21st century where everything is preserved in flash memory and hard drive.

The Brits are going to use paper.  And you can bet it’s going to be fancy paper, not just some recycled junk from Staples.

The Lords have been keeping their records on vellum since the 1400s.  The skin is said to last 5,000 years, compared with maybe a couple of hundred for paper.

And therein lies another era and its probable end.  Does anyone think anyone will still be here 5,000 years from now?  And if they are will they have ever even heard of the House of Lords?  And if they have, will they care what it did in 1066 or 1966 or 2066?

Sometimes the English confuse history with self importance.

Since the Lords keep records of the House of Commons, the commoners who really run Britain have chimed in. They are what we now call “stakeholders.” And they think a lot is at stake.

So a debate is likely before the actual change.  Anyone ask Liz what she thinks?  Anyone have her email address?

Quote of the day:

“If early civilizations hadn’t used vellum, our understanding of history would be diddly squat.”
-- Paul Wright, general manager of the only British company that still sells vellum, quoted in the New York Times.


Shrapnel:

--California is considering letting 16 year olds vote in school board and community policy elections.  Probably the best idea in public education since the invention of the chalkboard. But fraud- preventing voter ID would be a must because you never know when a mature looking 15 year old will try to pull a fast one.

--The self-styled “sane” and “compassionate” Republican in pursuit of the presidency, Governor John Kasich of Ohio, says he will sign a bill defunding Planned Parenthood in his state.  Is Kasich moving to the right?  Or has he just been lying to us all along?

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2016

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