Jeff Melanson breaking his silence is like him breaking wind

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You can trust Jeff Melanson; he has good hair.

Digging himself an ever-deeper hole, Chief Executive Invertebrate at the Toronto Symphony, Jeff Melanson, has an extended brain fart over the Valentina Lisitsa affair, which I’ve already written about.

There’s a piece in yesterday’s Musical Toronto, giving Jeff Melanson a platform to try to explain his inexplicable cancellation of Valentina Lisitsa’s concert with the TSO.  The article also links to a document prepared by TSO containing Lisitsa’s tweets. Unfortunately, Melanson just regurgitates his past statements albeit at greater and more boring length.  Issues he could have addressed, but didn’t:

  • How is “hate” defined?
  • Who exactly is offended, and can they reasonably justify their offence?
  • Where in Lisitsa’s contract does it say they can cut her because of her private activities?
  • How were the tweets collected that allegedly demonstrate Lisitsa’s “hate” chosen?  How do we know they weren’t cherry-picked?  Where is the context of those tweets?

Without answers to these questions, Melanson is just blowing smoke, and he’s still a coward.

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This week’s invertebrate organization: The Toronto Symphony

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TSO tells pianist to just play and shut up.

An upcoming performance by Valentina Lisitsa, a rising star in classical music, has been cancelled by the Toronto Symphony for reasons that are altogether unacceptable.

Lisitsa, born in Ukraine but ethnically Russian, has been tweeting statements about the ongoing strife in Ukraine, and that has apparently pissed off the wrong people. Media reports attribute the cancellation of her performance to a decision by TSO that her tweets are “provocative” and “deeply offensive.” (source)  But try as I might, I cannot find any analysis of the situation that rises above the level of knee-jerk pandering to political correctness and, possibly, ingratiation to funders – who are admittedly few and far between these days.

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Are young people really that bad?

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Are the young really that bad? No, they’re not. Everyone else is.

As I enter serious middle age, and I retain memories of youth while gaining a certain wisdom of age (and still have the energy to care), I find myself wondering about some of the canards I have heard for decades.  One of them is that the younger generations are always somehow worse than they were “once upon a time.”  I really think that’s not true, and here’s an argument to support this claim. Continue reading

An oversupply of PhDs? Is that even possible?

I recently came across an article in Globe & Mail from 2013, titled “Who will hire all the PhDs? Not Canada’s Universities.”  While not especially deep, the article does raise some interesting questions that got me thinking about how the state of satisfaction of PhD-holders is a reflection on the society that contains them.  Or maybe, vice versa.

Update, 5 July 2014. I came across an article in The Economist (Dec 2010), that peddles the same tired and narrow arguments as the Globe & Mail piece.

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A note on dying with dignity

DonaldLow[NOTE: I wish I could properly cite the interview on which I am basing this post, but I just can’t find it.  If anyone can provide me with a link to the actual story, please let me know.]

On 25 September, around 7:00 pm, I listened to an interview on CBC Radio 1 (Toronto) of a professor of Disability Studies from Ryerson University.  The interview was essentially a commentary of a powerful video by Dr. Donald Low, the exceptional microbiologist who steered Toronto through the 2003 SARS crisis. In that video, Dr. Low called for new standards to provide dying with dignity to everyone.  The commentary by the Ryerson professor, herself disabled, raised warning flags about Dr. Low’s call.

She talked – very eloquently – about all the different ways that one can define “dignity” as a social norm, and that any such norm would lead to a slippery slope that would end up with the disabled being euthanized without their consent because society had decided they lacked “dignity” in their lives.  Essentially, she argued that every life has some kind of inherent dignity that must be respected – even if that means denying them dignity in death.

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New Rule (#38)

I’ve added Rule 38 to my Rules page: There are no slippery slopes, only slippery people.

That is to say, slippery slopes are fallacious reasoning, and I believe one uses a slippery slope argument only because one has ulterior motives for arguing against a claim.  Far better, I say, to be clear and honest about those motives.

Courting disaster: treating children like adults

Maura E. Charette.  Photographed by her father.

Maura E. Charette. Photographed by her father, who wrote an equally questionable article in the same issue of IEEE Spectrum, on the “myth” of a STEM “crisis.”

August must have been a slow news month at IEEE, because they’ve published a staggeringly bad article, Is a Career in STEM Really for Me? The piece is so shallow and naive, I felt compelled to write about it.

Maura E. Charette wrote the piece. She has just started Grade 8.

(I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in.)

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