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May 01, 2007

Single Word Open Thread #2

Well, it looks like the 'Single Word Open Thread" concept worked out pretty well yesterday, so let's try it again, since my day is filled with traveling and laundry. Yes, part of of the exciting life of a touring author: Cleaning your clothes. Indeed, here's today's single word:


Your thoughts on it, and your own (or others') cleanliness or lack thereof? I await your comments and conversation with anticipation.

And with that, I'm off to shower. So you know where I stand on the cleanliness issue.

Posted by john at May 1, 2007 10:04 AM

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fuz | May 1, 2007 10:20 AM

The Sunday just past, my girlfriend was doing her laundry and someone stole half of it. It is as though her darks were cleaned clear out of existence.

Jeremiah | May 1, 2007 10:31 AM

Cleanliness is Godliness? Or something

CJ | May 1, 2007 10:51 AM

For fuz' girlfriend, its "Cleanliness is gone-liness" .

Steve Buchheit | May 1, 2007 11:00 AM

I remember being midly amused at a paragraph in a convention schedule/book about cleanliness. It was something about making sure you wore clean clothes and showered since everybody was sharing close quarters. Sometimes the mind boggles. Make me feel like changing my name to "Wonko the Sane."

Chang, the real O.C. | May 1, 2007 11:23 AM

Not so close to Godliness as one might imagine.

I'd prove my words but then I'd have to prove God exists. But then ,if God does not exist, does cleanliness not exist right next to it/him/her?

Sally Lou Liz | May 1, 2007 11:45 AM

And who is defining cleanliness? I assure you, my definition is different from my cat's opinion. Some days, it is quite different from my husband's opinion of cleanliness too! Of course, he doesn't lick himself ;)

Goner | May 1, 2007 12:01 PM

How inconvenient that one's yearly bath appointment would occur while traveling.
I bathe once a year whether I need to or not. Mr. Scalzi will now doubt bear up well under the burden. I myself would consider postponing the appointment until I had returned home to more congenial circumstances for the unpleasant task.

LC9er | May 1, 2007 12:35 PM

Definition subject to change at spouse's whim.

Cinderberry | May 1, 2007 12:37 PM

My cat has spent a good half an hour this morning washing me. She even had a go at my hair. Was it disrespectful of her efforts to have a bath anyway?

Frank | May 1, 2007 12:37 PM

How about this excerpt from Zappa's 200 Motels (life on the road): The Dental Hygeine Dilemma with John in place of Jeff Simmons (and modified by me, of course):

John Scalzi:
Man! This stuff is great! It's just as if Donovan himself had appeared on my very own TV with words of peace, love, and eternal cosmic wisdom. Leading me. Guiding me. On paths of everlasting pseudo-karmic negligence, in the very midst of my drug-induced nocturnal emission.

Good Concience:
Oh, I am your good conscience, John. I know all. I see all. I am a cosmic love pulse matrix, becoming a technicolor interpositive.

John Scalzi:
Hmm? Where'd you buy that incense? It's hip.

Good Concience:
It's the same mysterious exotic oriental fragrance as what the Beatles get off on.

John Scalzi:
I thought I recognized it. Mmm, what is that, musk?

Good Concience:
John, I know what's good for you.

John Scalzi:
Right. You're heavy.

Good Concience:
Yes John, I am your guiding light. Listen to me. Don't rip off the towels John!

Bad Concience:
Kiss off, you little nitwit.

John Scalzi:
Hey man, what's the deal?

Good Concience:
Don't listen to him Jeff, he's no good. He'll make you do bad things!

John Scalzi:
You mean, he'll make me sin?

Good Concience:
Yes, John. SIN!

John Scalzi:

Bad Concience:
John, I'd like to have a word with you. About your soul.

Good Concience:
No, don't listen Jeff.

Bad Concience:
Why are you wasting your life, night after night Doing this Sci/Fi gig?

John Scalzi:
You're right, I'm too heavy to be in this group.

Good Concience:
Science Fiction.

Bad Concience:
John, your soul!

John Scalzi:
I get so tense.

Bad Concience:
Of course you do my boy.

John Scalzi:
The stuff I have to write is always off the wall.

Bad Concience:
That's why it would be best to leave this stern employ.

John Scalzi:
And quit the group!

Bad Concience:
You'll make it big!

John Scalzi:
That's right.

Bad Concience:
Of course!

John Scalzi:
And then I won't be small!

Ahmet Ertegun used this towel as a bathmat six weeks ago at a rancid motel in Orlando, Florida, with the highest mildew rating of any commercial lodging facility within the territorial limits of the United States, naturally excluding tropical possessions. It's still damp. What an aroma! This is the best I ever got off! What can I say about this elixir? Try it on steaks! Cleans nylons! Small craft warnings! It's made for the home! The office! On fruits!

Bad Concience:
This is the real you, John. Rip off a few more ashtrays. Get rid of some of that inner tension. Quit the Sci/Fi gig! Become a literary giant. Heavy! Like Hemmingway, or Doris Lessing.

Dr. Phil | May 1, 2007 12:57 PM

I was going to comment about the difference between cleanliness and messiness -- my office space is a total disaster, but I hate being dirty. Watching people write things on their hands with a ballpoint pen makes my skin crawl. Ew!

But following Frank's literary redaction? I dunno that I can really offer anything here.

Final grades are submitted. I am free. For three days. I am going to go out and find some lunch.

Dr. Phil

Who, me? | May 1, 2007 01:04 PM

Sally Lou:
>Of course, he doesn't lick himself ;)

He would if he could...

JJS | May 1, 2007 01:38 PM

Cinderberry: My cat has spent a good half an hour this morning washing me. She even had a go at my hair. Was it disrespectful of her efforts to have a bath anyway?

Not at all. Remember that in spite of all their "washing," cats are not clean. They are just coated with cat spit.

Shawn Powers | May 1, 2007 02:47 PM

I grew up very poor, and yet was always clean. I find now, as I work in a school district in an area wrought with generational poverty, that those in poverty tend to be dirty. I've spent many a pondering moment on that, because otherwise normal kids smelling bad due to lack of hygiene is sad.

So being poor, and living in poverty are vastly different things. Cleanliness can be a key factor in seeing the difference.

I wonder how long a person must go to really just emanate stink. I'll admit that in the cooler months, I've gone several days without a shower, and suspect I could go a week or even two with burning anyone's nose hairs out. How long must an entire family go without common bathing to smell up a room upon entering? It saddens me.

If you want to be depressed, visit some elementary classrooms in a lower class area. It'll rip your heart out, and reiterate the need for good public schooling. Without free, quality education, generational poverty will just keep going and going...

Now I'm depressed.

-et- | May 1, 2007 03:51 PM

Shawn Powers said:
"I grew up very poor, and yet was always clean. I find now, as I work in a school district in an area wrought with generational poverty, that those in poverty tend to be dirty."

I disagree with this correlation. A couple of years ago, my daughter spent some time in Haiti as a volunteer teacher. Her comments on this subject were twofold.

First, you have not even begun to see poverty until you go to Haiti.

Second, she was awestruck by their attitude toward personal cleanliness. She said that many of the people might have only one shirt and one pair of pants, and those might be in rags, but their clothes were always clean and pressed, and patched as well as possible, and the people themselves were clean.

She said that there were a few exceptions, and that the high temperatures and brutal humidity on Haiti meant that people were always drenched in sweat. However, her opinion is that many Americans could learn a lot about personal cleanliness on Haiti.

FWIW, I have seen a number of people from high-income families who could benefit from more frequent bathing, and clean clothes. I agree that poverty definitely makes personal cleanliness more difficult, but I disagree that it automatically means "Poverty -> Lack of personal cleanliness". In my eyes, the equation is more like "Personal cleanliness = f(Personal values)".

With best wishes,
- Tom -

Shawn Powers | May 1, 2007 04:55 PM

I said they tend to be dirty, not that they are automatically. My point was that poverty means much more than lack of money. I fully agree that poor does not equal dirty, but rather uncleanliness is a sign (not rule) of poverty.

When I say poverty, it is of course relative. Haitian people (or any 3rd world area) have much MUCH less money, and even our homeless folks usually have more.

Poverty, at least in this area, generally means poor in spirit, desire, ambition, and intelligence. Sometimes that means poor financially too -- but not always. We have families living in what I would consider poverty that have plasma televisions, and rotten teeth. They spend money on McDonalds every day, yet qualify for free lunch at school. Poverty is very much a state of mind, at least by the definition of poverty I'm talking about.

I CERTAINLY never meant poor and underprivileged folks are dirty, and didn't say (or mean to say, sorry if I was unclear) that people in poverty are dirty -- just that there was a tendency to see the two together.

...gotta take my daughter to softball practice, or I'd blather on some more.

Johnny Carruthers | May 1, 2007 05:22 PM

Some people say that cleanliness is next to godliness, but I have encountered some people for whom it is next to impossible.

Suzanne | May 1, 2007 06:26 PM

My sister interviewed our grandmother a few years ago for a school project. One of the questions was, "what's the most important invention that's come along in your lifetime?"

Her answer, after a moment's thought, was the electric washer and dryer.

Having just bought a pair after living without for three years, I'm ready to agree.

excentricat | May 1, 2007 08:19 PM

I work at the zoo, and we cleaned the breakroom today. This might be the only time that something can smell worse after cleaning. I think pouring water down the drain released some smells that had been covered with gunk...

Steve Buchheit | May 1, 2007 08:23 PM

Dr. Phil "Watching people write things on their hands with a ballpoint pen makes my skin crawl"

Ouch, I mean, I'd just say, "Use a marker, Dude."

Dan | May 1, 2007 11:12 PM

I know nothing of cleanliness. But, I DO know that Megatron loves you John.

-et- | May 1, 2007 11:29 PM

Shawn Powers said:
"Poverty, at least in this area, generally means poor in spirit, desire, ambition, and intelligence. Sometimes that means poor financially too -- but not always. We have families living in what I would consider poverty that have plasma televisions, and rotten teeth. They spend money on McDonalds every day, yet qualify for free lunch at school. Poverty is very much a state of mind, at least by the definition of poverty I'm talking about.

It sounds as if I interpreted your earlier remarks differently than you intended them to be, and we are actually pretty much on the same wavelength. In regard to your words above, it appears that some things never change, regardless of the time or place.

I was born and raised in West Virginia in the 1940s and 50s, which had a per capita income that was a fraction of the national average, so I was exposed to a very similar type of behavior. Some of the people were really poor, but were very respected by my family - and many others as well - because they were doing everything possible to make sure their kids had an opportunity to get out of poverty. Their kids came to school in worn, hand-me-down clothing, but it was clean clothing. FWIW, I'm going to my 50th high-school class re-union this summer, and quite a few of those poor kids have done very well in the world by essentially any standard you might choose to use.

Other families - you had to wonder how they could justify their priorities to themselves, let alone to other people. You did not have to go far out of town to find families living in shacks where you could see daylight between the boards - in a climate with cold winters - and shoeless kids outside the house. But many of those families had a brand-new car parked in front, and most had a TV antenna on the house - at a time when my middle-class family could not justify spending a month's pay on a TV.

As you said, "poverty" is very much a state of mind - at least IMO.

With best wishes,
- Tom -

Jeri | May 1, 2007 11:32 PM

As a two-career working parent household, we have made the decision to have a housekeeper come in once a week to do the basic stuff - bathrooms, kitchen, dusting, floors. She doesn't pick up after us, do dishes or do laundry.

It staves off lots of domestic squabbles and gives us back our weekends to do stuff together as a family, rather than chores all weekend. (Of course, there are still many home projects... but at least the house is clean.)

However... my MIL thinks it's a moral failing that I do this... that I apparently don't care enough about my family to personally clean house for them. Cleanliness is next to godliness and I fail the litmus test.

I stopped caring about her approval many years ago. (In her eyes, I'm also evil for working outside the home, and headed straight for hell as a result.) But it's an interesting note on just how personally folks take cleanliness.

Brian Greenberg | May 2, 2007 01:04 AM

The first time I saw "Single Word Open Thread," I thought you meant that all the comments had to be a single word each.

Which I think would be a really cool idea. But my blog gets hundreds of hits per day, not thousands, so I must live vicariously...

So how about it John? Can we carry on a discussion one word at a time?

Shawn Powers | May 2, 2007 03:01 AM


Shawn Powers | May 2, 2007 03:05 AM

LOL! Sorry Brian, I couldn't resist. :)

It sounds like fun, but do you mean that:

1) Each user would carry on the thought, like a ficlet-comment-thread.

2) Each user's comment would be independently fulfilling, with just one word.


3) We'd get into a literary, "whose got the biggest/coolest word" contest?

dichroic | May 2, 2007 03:57 AM

Steve: they put those notes in convention programs as a public service, because they're apparently necessary. Another version I've seen quoted for SF conventions is the 5-2-1 rule (6-2-1?): Make sure than in any 24-hour period you get at least 5 hours of sleep, 2 meals, and 1 shower.

It does make the con experience more pleasant for everyone else.

Steve Buchheit | May 2, 2007 09:12 AM

dichroic, they had hat rule in the program as well. It's just one of those things that makes me wonder about people. Just call me Wonko, it's alright. I just need to get me a pair of sandals and a glass bowl.

Nikitta | May 2, 2007 09:30 AM

Steve Buchheit: I refuse to call you Wonko until you get an inside-out house!

MikeB | May 2, 2007 10:43 AM

As one whose work used to see me travelling for up to ten months in any given year I can only state the simple premise that, at least for me, cleanliness maintains sanity. Hotel laundries are, on average, ovepriced and ineffective. I got into the highly un-green habit of doing things like buying 12-packs of (very) cheap cotton tube socks at corner pharmacies and wearing a pair for one day then throwing them out. Before the days of recycle bins, I hasten to add. Did the same thing with underwear for a while too. It may not have been politically correct but it did make my luggage smell a whole lot better...

Brian Greenberg | May 4, 2007 02:00 PM

Shawn - I meant #2, although I bet with this crowd, it'd morph into a little of both...

Do I sense a movement forming? ;-)

Scorpio | May 4, 2007 05:27 PM

People with deficient noses need to do cleanliness by ritual.

Zack Weinberg | May 6, 2007 02:36 AM

Especially if it's your first time, a con is a great place to come down with Disneyland Syndrome. Most of the rules of your day-to-day existence are suspended - you don't have to go to work, you've just made five new friends, the past 48 hours have been more fun than you've had all year - and so you forget that going for 48 hours without sleep, a shower, or even a full meal is a really bad idea.

Thus, the con survival guides contain explicit reminders to do these things. I'm not denying that some con attendees just plain have bad hygiene - but those people are few, and probably not going to start bathing just because it says so in the survival guide.

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