Signs and Ads


I noticed this sign on the Orange Line last Tuesday:


The heading reads: “HOW TO GET FROM HERE.  TO HERE.”  On the left, there’s a well-worn pair of work boots; on the right, a shiny new pair of dress shoes.

The caption says: “Without educational credentials, there’s only so far you can go in your career.  Wentworth can give you the credentials you need to go from employee to boss.  Earn your degree or certificate and become the leader you’ve always wanted to be.”

On top right of the sign someone wrote: “Boots rule, you bourgeois pigs.”

When I saw the boots I thought “hard work; action; building things; getting things done.”  When I saw the dress shoes pitted against the boots, I thought “corporate office; oceans of email; long meetings; windows that don’t open.”

I assume the creators of the ad were counting on viewers to interpret the symbols differently: boots are supposed to represent a dead-end job, the drudgery of manual labor, a low salary, a lack of recognition.  Dress shoes, I suppose, are meant to indicate opportunity, sophistication, power, an advancing career.  Boots mean “worker,” and dress shoes mean “boss.”

By that reading, the ad insinuates a repugnant idea: that trade work is inferior to office work and that anyone wearing boots to their job should aspire to someday have the privilege of wearing dress shoes, a privilege so enviable that they might want to consider becoming indebted to Wentworth to obtain it.

Education should be a pathway to having greater choice and control in one’s work and life — I’ve experienced those benefits, and I think they should be available to everyone.  But dress shoes represent a very narrow-minded idea of success.  If Wentworth’s marketing department had used visual symbolism focused on choice and empowerment — if they had selected imagery that contrasts professional immobility with the increasing opportunity and self-directedness that can come with education, this might have been a decent ad.  Instead, Wentworth presents a view of education as what?  A credential shop?  A class elevator?  A place to change one’s fashion? I was glad to see that this sign received a bit of the graffiti it asks for.

Music, Voice


A basic ear-training exercise that I return to regularly is to sing intervals over a drone: for each of the twelve notes, you sing the interval from the drone to that given note, and vice versa.  It’s useful to choose the target notes in a more-or-less random order so you don’t rely on the previous note as a crutch to guide you to the next one.  It’s also helpful to practice different ways of singing the interval, ranging from a slide between the notes to separate staccato attacks.  The next stage of this practice is to keep the drone playing, but choose a different starting note: instead of singing from the drone note to each given note, you now sing from, say, a minor second above the drone to each target.  Go through all twelve possible starting notes, and sing all the intervals from that starting note to all the possible targets.  In my own practice I’ve found that the exercise becomes a lot more challenging (and more rewarding as well) when I add an explicit step which I’ll call “prehearing.”  Let’s say you’re singing the interval re-fa (over a do drone).  The idea is that while you’re still singing re, you try to hear fa in your mind.  You keep singing re for a while as you imagine fa, and only then, once you have a clear inner sense of the sound of fa, you switch from singing re to singing fa.  So far I’ve found that there are many cases where I can sing an interval pretty accurately, but the challenge of “prehearing” the target pitch while singing the starting pitch still eludes me.  For example, I might be able to sing re-fa, but my sense of “where fa is” only solidifies once I start moving towards it: I can’t actually hear fa at the same time I’m singing re, before I’ve begun to move in fa’s direction.  However, that ability to simultaneously sing one note and imagine another can be developed with practice, and the advantage of practicing it, I think, is that you can move between notes much more securely: you tend to land on the target more decisively, without “searching” for it.  I’ve seen that when you practice without explicit prehearing, you can still get quite good, and you can make the period of searching for the target note shorter and shorter, so that a listener might not notice any hesitation or uncertainty as you sing; nevertheless, prehearing lets you do even better, hitting the notes dead-on and with complete confidence.  This post is a note-to-self to remind me to practice prehearing!