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Need no credit card to ride this train

Bob Masters | Thursday, February 24, 2005

Much like my muse and new personal hero, Charlie Weis, I’m a bottom-line guy.

There’s no room in my world for frills and ornamentation; just give me the basics, please. I’m a man who likes his coffee black, his blue-books blue, and his burgers delicious.

I have no tolerance for shades of gray or any desire to muddle in the mushy-mouthed middle ground. I don’t try to call both sides of the coin or to have my cake and eat it, too. Like a veritable John Wayne, I pick one side or the other, and don’t look back.

I want nice, simple one-to-one correspondences in my life; yes or no, good or bad, up or down, Ruben or Clay.

With me, things are black or white, not somewhere in-between. Basic, plain and simple; that’s what I like.

Of course, understand that I’m not talking about applying this bare-bones philosophy to matters of life, love, taxes or politics. No, I’m directing my uncomplicated ethos toward the walls of O’Shag and the rash of fiercely competitive advertising that they’ve spawned.

You can imagine how painful it is for a man of my straightforward, plain-Jane tastes to walk down the normally sterile corridors this time of year. Bright, exciting posters have crawled out of the woodwork virtually overnight.

On your average day, I’ve been taunted by sprawling hot-pink banners with dark silhouettes of beautiful women. I’ve been mocked by long-dead literary figures urging me to learn their native tongue. I’ve seen enticing photos of exotic locales – all of them urging me to spend a semester studying in the places of dreams – Rome, Dublin and Florida State University.

These affronts to unadorned, old fashioned taste have all been carried on in amazing, blinding, enraging Technicolor.

While the Student Activities Office may approve just about anything these days, the Bob Masters Office of Poster Endorsement only likes two ads. We recommend that the remaining hundreds of needlessly colorful posters be removed immediately and replaced with good old fashioned pen and ink.

The first ad that may remain features Mr. Worf from Star Trek. This advert, as I understand, was sponsored by the Department of Klingon Studies as a way to increase enrollment in their Introduction to Alpha Quadrant Language Systems course offerings. Not only does this rate highly on my Random Star Trek Reference meter but it’s also printed in soothing black and white. So it stays.

The second poster I approve of is the “Love Is” advertisement sponsored by the Notre Dame Right to Life club. This ad struck me for two reasons. First, it’s in beautiful black and white, much like Mr. Worf and much like the appealing simplicity I’ve argued for earlier in this column.

Secondly, the background of the poster contains absolutely beautiful poetry that I strained to read one evening while stopping to admire the ad’s effortless elegance. For the record, Star Trek and poetry are about the only things I do indeed approve of.

Since I’ve recently hired a fact-checker for my column, this poster had a bit more surprise yet for me. I’ve discovered, after closer examination of the “Love Is” poster, that the Right to Life group was not quoting a Shakespearean sonnet, as I had originally assumed.

The selected ruminations on what love is featured in this ad are actually the words of Saint Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians.

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul states that love “suffereth long, and is kind.” Furthermore, love “beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” And, Paul adds, while the virtues of faith, hope and love always remain, “the greatest of these is love.”

I’m sure all of us have been reminded of Paul’s touchingly beautiful assessment of love at various points in our lives. I know it was a popular selection for the readings at many of those all-school Masses we’d attend twice a week at St. Matt’s.

But there was something there in the basic, black and white, simple presentation of the “Love Is” poster that made Saint Paul’s words even more poignant this time around. Contrasted against the sea of gaudy attention-seeking ads, Paul’s thoughts – in nonchalant white lettering – stood solidly on their own merit, without need of artifice or dressing-up.

Rather, the natural beauty of his incredibly poetic articulation of love shone brighter than any hot pink placard ever could.

But that’s just me. I remain a realist. I understand some need the stimulation of neon colors, laser light shows and ear-shattering sounds to get a point.

That’s why I’m closing this column with an endorsement of Huey Lewis for Commencement speaker.

Those to whom Paul’s simple graces are lost will hopefully get the same idea, more or less, from rockin’ out to “The Power of Love” at maximum volume.

Bob Masters is a senior English major. He can be contacted at amasters@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Observer.