Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Sad Robot Tour

What Robots Think Of The Damn Food You're Eating

Robots! They like food too. I guess. I mean why not?

I always liked the idea of sentient robots obsessed with food. They wouldn’t necessarily crave cupcakes in the middle of their workday or salami and BBQ chips (a personal favorite of mine) before going to bed, but they’d crave the casual rituals people have developed for consuming food. They'd wonder about the experience of taste!

So I spend a lot of time wondering what robots think food tastes like -- even though they can’t taste -- just by the names of foods alone.

In Sad Robot Stories, I riff on this thought a little in the following paragraph:

Casserole! What a word! Robot thought it sounded absolutely beautiful. The word casserole made him yearn for lips, made him yearn to feel how words, how this word specifically, rolled off the tongue he didn’t have. He’d never wanted a tongue or lips until he heard the word casserole. And he had no idea what casserole was, but the construction of the word! The sound of it all! It was something Robot never really knew: wholesome. It sounded amazing.

Here are a few more meals and how a robot might interpret them. I wrote the interpretations in the same third person my book is written in. So it's not so much in the point-of-view of a robot, as it's in the point-of-view of some esteral being interpreting a robots thoughts.

Hamsteak (my favorite meal as a kid): Hamsteak! What a word!

What a miserable, miserable word.

To Robot, hamsteak sounds like the kind of meal that might make a human give up on all food. Robot was surprised that the fear of a food named hamsteak, which sounded to his mechanical listening devices like suffocating to death under a mound of dirt, didn't make humans slowly starve themselves to death.

Quiche: Quiche! What a word!

You can't trust quiche, is what Robot thinks he'd think, were he human.

Quiche sounds like a comfortable chair that, upon being sat in, sinks too much. And while that experience, like quiche, is something robot has never experienced, he's certain he wouldn't like it.


Peas: Peas! What a word!

Peas sound like they'll do. They'll just do. To Robot, peas are nearly sad, because they sound under appreciated. Like a day that's not too hot or too cold, yet it's optimal temperature never crosses your mind.

Peas are "you don't know what you got till its gone" (and you're hungry).

When robot hears the word "peas," he becomes suddenly aware of the screws and bolts holding him together. Suddenly aware of how perfectly they fit his frame, how perfectly they keep him together.

Whenever Robot hears the word "peas," he feels bad he doesn't appreciate the screws and bolts holding him together more.

Pizza: Pizza! What a word!

What a weird word.

Foods cut down in their prime, that's what pizza sounds like to Robot. Yet the sum of the individual pieces of pizza, the fragments of separate wholes, becomes a fuller whole in their combination.

Pizza isn't the ocean. Robot imagines that pizza is like a nice, private pool. Maybe it's in someone's back yard. All your friends are there and they're smiling. It can get better than this, but not by much.


Mason Johnson is a writer from Chicago who currently works full time writing and editing articles for CBS. You can find his fiction at Also, he pets all the cats.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The state that I'm in

So I'm not sure who's been paying attention as of late (I say this honestly, not in a desperate bid for assurance) but I haven't been doing a terribly good job of maintaining this blog for the past few weeks. In an attempt to break my radio silence, I feel somewhat obligated to offer up an explanation, even if I've tried to keep most personal things out of this blog to strictly focus on my bookish and foodly interests. 

I have not been myself lately. To elaborate, I have little interest in things that are neither wine nor fueling my recent but enthusiastically nurtured fondness for Bloody Marys (I mean, aside from cuddling with my adorable dog and gearing up for this year's very celebratory wedding season). Reading has been an absolute chore: While I've faced down reading slumps before, none have been as persistent and long-running as this current bout of readerly apathy. As a result, I've dialed way back on my book reviews because I do not feel it is fair to whatever thing I'm reading to sludge through it just for the sake of pooping out a half-hearted review.

This all stems from how vehemently and bitterly I hate my job. I've been at my current place of employment for a skosh more than five years and have wanted out for a staggering majority of that time. It took me a long time to realize that I am burned out in ways I've never before experienced, as I was loathe to confess I'd let myself get this badly beaten down and disenchanted with the things I usually love because of what comes down to a miserably acquired paycheck.

So it is with great pleasure that I can say, as of last night, my days at this job are numbered. I'll be embarking upon a new occupational adventure two days after I get the unique honor of standing up as matron of honor for my best friend, with the day of her wedding rehearsal being my last-ever day at a place that has both warped my personality and left me stewing in a small pond of previously unexplored emotionally toxic levels. While I am not allowed to go into greater detail about what my new job is 'til July 3, I am too filled with relief, unbridled joy and a return to the person I know I really am to keep this all to myself. I may explode from happiness, which is a sensation that has grown far too alien these past few months (or years, if I'm being brutally honest).

I look forward to whatever the future holds, especially in terms of getting back to the things and people from which I derive the greatest delights. Be well, and expect a return to form as soon as this most unfamiliar state of welcome chaos abates.